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The fight for Arctic oil heats up

By Lucy Brake - 25 May 2011 9:44:0 GMT
The fight for Arctic oil heats up

Greenpeace ships, the Arctic Sunrise and the Esperanza, have been searching the North Atlantic for the oil rig, Leiv Eiriksson. The ships finally found the Cairn Energy owned oil rig this week hidden amongst the icebergs. However, in finding the oil rig they were also confronted by commandos from the Danish navy whose mission was to protect the massive 53,000 tonne oil rig.

The Leiv Eiriksson, now located 200 miles to the west of Greenland, is considered by many to be one of the world's most controversial oil rigs and the drilling operation is being protected by a Danish warship. Of major concern is that any oil spill in the Arctic Sea would be very difficult, if not impossible, to handle and Greenpeace has just released confidential documents written by the UK government which confirm that the foreign office is concerned an Arctic oil spill clean-up would be extremely challenging.

Greenpeace said today that Cairn Energy is hoping to drill down to 1500m, which is the depth of the BP oil well that caused major devastation in the Gulf of Mexico, but that the Leiv Eiriksson oil rig is working in much more difficult conditions: ''Freezing temperatures, severe weather and a highly remote location mean any spill could be very difficult, if not impossible, to contain and clean up''.

The problem is that the Arctic Sea is considered to be a very valuable oil reserve, according to the U.S. Geological Survey there is potentially 90 billion barrels under the sea floor off Greenland, which equates to an awful lot of money for oil companies.

Cairn Energy is one of the largest independent oil and gas companies in Europe, whose focus is on exploration and production. They are based in Edinburgh, Scotland and their main interests are in India, where they have developed major oil fields, and Greenland, where they have what Cairn Energy describes is ''an early entry and strategic frontier exploration position''.

This is not a new argument, in July 2010 Cairn Energy made global headlines when a U.K newspaper, the Guardian, condemned their Arctic oil drilling plan as ''irresponsible'' and Greenpeace urged the company to halt their proposal to drill off Greenland, especially in light of the issues BP were having in the Gulf of Mexico. And so the battle for oil continues.

The Leiv Eiriksson oil rig is now heading to the iceberg-riddled seas between Greenland and Canada, known by many as 'iceberg alley' where Greenpeace are confronting them in their bid to bring the drilling to a standstill. Because of the plethora of icebergs in this area Greenpeace are concerned that the risks of drilling for oil outweigh the benefits, instead they would like to see the world seeking alternative energy sources and reducing fuel use ''to break free of our addiction to oil''.

Head to Greenpeace's blog to follow their ships efforts to halt the Arctic oil drilling.

Top Image Credit: © Steve Morgan / Greenpeace.