Greenland touted as billion-a-year oil beneficiary
UK company “encouraged” by early results
Cairn Energy, the UK company drilling for oil off western Greenland, said Aug. 24 that there’s a future in its oil exploration 175 kilometres off western Greenland, the Greenlandic newspaper Sermitsiaq reported.
This means Greenland could be looking at a future as an oil-producing country with a billion dollars or more in annual new revenue, Sermitsiaq says, echoing what Greenland’s premier Kuupik Kleist said last December in Copenhagen— that Greenland has the second largest reserves of oil and gas after Saudi Arabia, which earns more than $150 billion dollars a year from petroleum.
Cairn Energy’s chief executive officer, Bill Gammel, gave a positive account of the drill results on Aug. 24.
“I am encouraged that we have early indications of a working hydrocarbon system with our first well in Greenland, confirming our belief in the exploration potential,” Gammell said, noting the discovery of gas in thin sands, which often means there’s also oil not far off.
Gammell also disputed claims by the environmental organization Greenpeace, which maintains the company couldn’t cap a blow-out like the one that caused the three-month-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“It isn’t true to suggest we don’t have the capability or time to drill a relief well,” Gammell said, noting that Cairn has two rigs on the scene, one of which could rapidly drill a relief well if needed.
Meanwhile, the news from Cairn provoked reaction in Denmark where TV2 News reported that the Danish People’s Party MP Soren Espersen says Denmark gave away its rights to sub-surface resources to Greenland.
“There is every reason to congratulate Greenland. But it is shameful that the parliament has contributed to a law allowing Greenland all revenue. Denmark has over the years paid billions of dollars to Greenland. Therefore, all revenue should be shared equally,” Esperson said.
The Berlingske Tidende newspaper said the oil reserves off Greenland could trigger a race in Greenland and other Arctic waters of under the jurisdiction of Norway, Canada, the United States and Russia.
As for Greenpeace, its ship, the Esperanza, attempted to approach a Cairn drill site this week, but was held off by a Danish warship at the edge of a 500-metre exclusion zone around one of the Cairn drilling rigs.
Greenpeace also held a public meeting at the Katuaq cultural centre in Nuuk on Aug. 19 to talk about its opposition to the offshore drilling.
But they were met by a demonstrators, brandishing all sorts of placards and banners with messages in English, Danish and Greenland, such as “Children are starving because of Greenpeace, “ “Fuck your ship back to another planet, assholes,” “We do not grow vegetables nor pigs,” “Green Shit, your passport stinks,” “Greenpeace is lying,” “We will listen to other organizations, not Greenpeace.”
The demonstration was the brainchild of Pilu Kasper Bech from Nuussuaq, the creator of the Facebook page called “Grønlændere imod Greenpeace” or Greenlanders against Greenpeace.
In an open letter posted on Siku News’s website, Bech told Greenpeace to “call your ship MV Esperanza home from Greenland waters.”
“Your presence is unwelcome. Your attempt to run a false campaign against oil exploration is unacceptable to many up here,” Bech writes. “We still remember the 1970s and 1980s when you attacked all sealskin products. An action which left thousands of Greenlanders prisoners of poverty and without the opportunity to continue their normal lives.”
In an Aug. 24 news release from the Esperanza, now within sight of the two rigs Cairn is operating in the area, Greenpeace activist Leila Deen said that “Cairn might be a step closer to finding oil off Greenland, but this takes us one step back in the fight against climate change and poses a grave threat to the fragile Arctic environment.”
So far Cairn has refused to publish a comprehensive plan for how it would deal with a spill from the platform, Greenpeace says, and has just 14 vessels capable of reacting to a spill, in contrast to BP’s response in the Gulf spill, which required more than 6,500 ships.
Greenpeace says it wants Cairn to immediately halt its drilling operation and to publicly release safety plans for the operation.
A freedom of information request from Greenpeace for the plan to the Greenland government was refused, says the environmental organization.