Melting sea ice is exposing vast regions believed to contain oil and natural 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.
Statoil Chief Executive Officer Helge Lund told the World Petroleum Congress in Doha that governments could become more willing to allow access to arctic waters as technology improves.
"Political support will always depend on the industry ability to deliver safe and efficient operations," he was quoted by the Platts news service as saying. "Policies and technology represent barriers to arctic activity but they are not show stoppers in my opinion."
Statoil, along with Russian energy company Gazprom, plans to explore parts of the Barents Sea and offshore Greenland.
"We expect arctic exploration to intensify," he said.
Greenpeace said Cairn'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.
Greenland's government published a 214-page response plan in August that outlines monitoring equipment, response plans and spill movement scenarios.