BP steers clear of controversial Greenland oil bids

BP HAS decided not to bid for a drilling licence near Greenland, a move government officials there say may be due to its tarnished safety image after the disastrous blowout of a deepwater well in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We were aware of the licensing round," said BP spokesman Robert Wine. "We did get involved in it in the preliminary stages, and decided not to proceed with a bid."

Wine declined to discuss the reasons for the decision, or to say whether it was made before or after the Deepwater Horizon explosion on 20 April. Greenland's premier, however, made it clear that the Gulf disaster had affected his government's approach to drilling and that a company's safety record was key.

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"Of course we are influenced by what happened in the Gulf. And we know that we are taking on a huge responsibility on our shoulders," Kuupik Kleist told a news conference on Wednesday.

Wine indicated that BP had not ruled out bidding for future licences around the world.

"We would obviously be interested in any (licensing] rounds coming up," he said.

Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy said on Tuesday that it had found gas off the west coast of Greenland, but no oil yet.

The announcement put the North Atlantic territory in the spotlight of global concerns about the risks of drilling at sea. Greenpeace's ship Esperanza was circling the oil rig in protest over what spokesman Ben Steart called "the reckless push toward an Arctic oil run".

Ove Karl Berthelsen, Greenland's minister for mineral resources, said yesterday that he did not know whether there had been direct or indirect contacts with BP, but said the Gulf disaster could have been a factor in BP's decision not to bid.

"We are looking very thoroughly at the tenders we get," Berthelsen said. "We look at their history and how they have built up their reputation on safety policy."

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