Cairn’s Greenland oil campaign ends in failure

Nov 30, 2011 12:00 AM

by Brian Swint

Cairn Energy ended this year’s $ 600 mm drilling program off Greenland after the biggest exploration campaign attempted in the Arctic island’s waters failed to make a viable discovery.
The AT7-1 well, which had encountered traces of oil and gas, has been plugged and abandoned, the Edinburgh-based company said. The AT2-1 well, the last of five drilled this year, was also abandoned after reporting only “minor hydrocarbon shows.”

The company will evaluate its program next year and seek partners for investment.
“Effectively these are write-offs, though there were some encouraging signs,” said Richard Rose, an oil analys.
“That’s the end of the program. Rigs are going to disappear, and we won’t see any drilling there next year,” he added.

Cairn’s eight-well program, spread over two years, was one of the industry’s most advanced efforts to find oil in Arctic waters and drew protests from activists who said it risked damaging a pristine environment.
ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and Statoil hold licenses to explore off Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory of 56,000 people.

The unsuccessful Greenland campaign may raise concern that the company, which also has exploration licenses in Spain, may need to find a new focus after it agreed to sell a majority interest in its Indian business to Vedanta Resources last year.
The company has been waiting for more than a year to get approval for the deal.

Ingredients for success
“The first phase of Cairn’s exploration program in Greenland has encountered oil and gas shows across multiple basins and now reservoir-quality sands in the Atammik block,” Chief Executive Officer Simon Thomson said. “Whilst we have yet to make a commercial discovery we remain encouraged that all of the ingredients for success are in evidence.”
Greenland’s oil and gas resources may total 50 bn barrels, according to the US Geological survey. That’s more than the US’s proven crude reserves.

Polar bears
Cairn said it had spent $ 573 mm this year on the unsuccessful Greenland campaign as of the end of September, before the last two wells were completed. The company drilled three exploration wells in 2010.
Mike Watts, head of exploration, said earlier that Cairn was prepared to spend up to $ 1.2 bn in Greenland on 10 to 12 wells.

About 20 Greenpeace activists were arrested earlier after storming Cairn’s Edinburgh office dressed as polar bears. After that, Greenland’s government said it will publish the company’s contingency plan for an oil spill.
“However the company tries to spin this, Cairn’s Greenland misadventures have been an unmitigated disaster from day one,” Greenpeace said. “The incredible technical, economic and environmental risks of operating in the Arctic simply aren’t worth it.”

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