Cairn Energy's discovery of a working hydrocarbon system below the seafloor off Greenland's coast does not necessarily mean the find will be commercially viable, the company says.

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Scottish-based Cairn Energy PLC has found what it calls "a working hydrocarbon system" beneath the surface of the Arctic Ocean off Greenland's coast.

On Tuesday, the company announced that drilling in the area had detected the presence of either oil or gas beneath the seafloor.

The move drew concern from Greenpeace and others that a rush to produce oil in the area would be environmentally dangerous. Fears of a deleterious impact on the environment from offshore oil have been heightened since BP's catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April.

In an interview on CBC-TV's Lang and O'Leary Exchange, Simon Thomson, commercial director at Cairn Energy said more testing must be completed before proceeding.

"What it isn't, is a commercial discovery," he said. "What it is, is technical encouragement of our instinct in this area."

The offshore energy industry is in its infancy in the Arctic, as the region being probed is roughly the size of the North Sea and so far, the Greenland government has only issued a handful of drilling licences.

"The hunt continues," Thomson said. "We need to wait until the end of our drilling program at the end of this summer season before we see what we may or may not have."

The company is taking every precaution, he said, and safety is the company's top priority.

"We're approaching it very much from a preventative viewpoint," he said.