North

Greenpeace ships approach Greenland oil rig

Greenpeace says two of its ships are in a "tense standoff" with a Danish naval ship that is guarding an oil rig off the coast of Greenland, where Cairn Energy is drilling for oil and gas.

Greenpeace says two of its ships are in a "tense standoff" with a Danish naval ship that is guarding an oil rig off the western coast of Greenland, where Cairn Energy is drilling for oil and gas.

The Ocean Rig Corcovado, one of two drilling vessels Cairn Energy PLC is using this summer to explore for oil and gas off Greenland's western coast. The other vessel, the Leiv Eiriksson rig, was discovered by Greenpeace activists late Monday night. ((Cairn Energy PLC))

The environmental activist group said Tuesday that a 120-metre-long NATO warship is protecting the Leiv Eiriksson, one of two drilling vessels that Cairn Energy is using for its Arctic offshore exploration program this year.

Greenpeace activists aboard the ships Esperanza and Arctic Sunrise found the rig and its escort ship late Monday about 322 kilometres west of Greenland's coast in Davis Strait and Baffin Bay, the group stated in a release.

The group, which believes offshore drilling puts the Arctic at risk of a major oil spill or other environmental accident, says its two ships are following the Leiv Eiriksson as it heads north.

"I'm looking at [the] ice-choked waters of Baffin Bay. There are storm-flecked waves, rolling seas, and these towering icebergs," Ben Ayliffe, a Greenpeace activist aboard the Esperanza, told CBC News on Tuesday.

"It really does bring it home that there would be no way for a company — certainly not a small company like Cairn Energy — to [be] getting anywhere near to stopping a leaking oil well in somewhere which is as extreme as these parts of Baffin Bay."

Greenpeace has called Cairn Energy's drilling plans "reckless in the extreme" and is demanding that the company abandon those plans and "leave the Arctic immediately."

Company plans up to 4 new wells

Scotland-based Cairn Energy, which drilled three exploration wells  off Greenland's western coast last year, says it plans to drill up to four more wells this summer.

"The group's strong financial position and entrepreneurial exploration focus has allowed it to build a strategic and leading early entry position in the frontier offshore basins of Greenland, which Cairn believes has the necessary geological ingredients for exploration success," Cairn Energy deputy chief executive Mike Watts stated in a company release on Tuesday.

Cairn Energy said the Greenland government has recently approved the location of seven drill sites, which will give the company "possible options for follow-up appraisal wells in the event of a discovery."

The company said the chances of finding oil there are between 10 and 20 per cent, given the "frontier nature of the exploration and paucity of offset well information."

Arctic drilling rush feared

Cairn Energy said it will deploy two drilling vessels as part of its safety plan this summer.

But Greenpeace warns that if Cairn Energy's drilling efforts are successful, it could spark a massive oil and gas drilling rush in the Arctic.

The group said it has obtained British government documents that show officials are privately concerned about the impacts of an oil spill in the remote and ecologically fragile Arctic region.

Last fall, four Greenpeace activists were arrested  after they climbed onto Cairn Energy's Stena Don rig and occupied the rig for more than 40 hours.

Activists also tried earlier this month to intercept the Cairn drilling rig as it headed towards Greenland.

now