Greenland's premier welcomes Cairn plans

EDINBURGH oil explorer Cairn Energy outlined its $600 million (£371m) drilling plans for Greenland this summer as the firm continues its campaign to discover oil in the Arctic.

The four wells off the western coast of Greenland target reservoirs that could contain up to 3.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent, Cairn said in a statement.

While the drill is strongly opposed by environmental groups, the premier of Greenland, Kuupik Kleist, warmly welcomed Cairn's plans. In a speech published yesterday, he said the nation was "under heavy pressure" to increase its revenues.

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"It is our hope that the approval of new wells offshore west Greenland will move us even closer towards the discovery of commercially viable oil and gas reserves. Should this happen, we will work closely with Cairn Energy to make sure that all development is socially sustainable with maximum involvement of local suppliers and the local workforce," said Kleist.

The area is largely unexplored and Cairn puts its chance of a commercial hydrocarbon discovery at between only 10 and 20 per cent. Cairn's 2010 Greenland drilling found traces of oil and gas the company said were encouraging, but failed to make any commercial discoveries.

Cairn said of the four wells it planned to drill this coming summer, one will be on its Atammik block and one will be on its Lady Franklin block, hundreds of kilometres to the south of where it drilled last year.

Greenpeace, which last year tried to disrupt Cairn's drilling campaign in Greenland, yesterday published UK government documents highlighting the difficulties of cleaning up an oil spill in the remote, pristine Arctic region. Cairn said that safety would be a key focus of its drilling campaign.

Energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie has said Greenland could have reserves of 20 billion barrels of oil, which could turn it into a major new oil producing region.