Melting sea ice is exposing vast fields of unexplored oil and gas reserves. Cairn Energy this year unveiled a $600 million drilling campaign in waters off Greenland. Though the company has come up empty-handed so far, Cairn estimates the reserve potential there at 3.2 million barrels of oil equivalent.
Greenpeace said the company's drilling campaign pumped hundreds of tons of hazardous chemicals into the ocean. One exploratory drilling campaign in Greenland's waters, the advocacy group claims, discharges more harmful pollutants than all drilling in Norway and Denmark combined.
A Cairn spokeswoman, in response to repeated criticism from Greenpeace, told United Press International in an e-mailed statement that caution was a priority for Greenland operations.
"The Greenland authorities have put in place some of the most stringent regulations globally," the spokeswoman stated. "All of Cairn's operations have been approved by the Greenland authorities and by third parties, including the Danish national environmental agency, the National Environmental Research Institute of Denmark."
In terms of criticism of the chemicals used offshore, Cairn said their use was sparse.
Greenland's government published a 214-page response plan in August that outlines monitoring equipment, response plans and spill movement scenarios. The initial response includes controlled burns, onshore action and the use of chemical dispersants.
Cairn, the spokeswoman stressed, is operating there at the invitation of the Greenland government.