Cairn restarts drilling offshore Greenland after dangling activists are arrested

By Phaedra Friend Troy

Cairn Energy has restarted drilling the Alpha-1 exploration well using the Stena Don semisubmersible offshore Greenland, following a three-day halt in operations due to Greenpeace protestors.

“Cairn can confirm that operations have started again on the Stena Don where safety remains Cairn's priority in this drilling exploration activity,” stated Cairn.

Starting Tuesday, four Greenpeace activists occupied the drilling rig and hung in tent-like apparatuses from the rig just 15 feet above the Arctic waters of the Baffin Bay.

Bitter cold and raging seas forced the protestors to climb to the gantry of the rig, where they were arrested on Thursday morning by Greenlandic authorities.

Greenpeace reported that the activists are trying to bring attention to the need to replace oil with renewable energy.

"We stopped this rig drilling for oil for two days, but in the end the Arctic weather beat us,” said one of the protestors via satellite phone. “Last night was freezing, and now the sea below us is churning and the wind is roaring.”

Cairn began drilling the Alpha prospect in the Sigguk Block of the Arctic Ocean on July 1, 2010. Initially expected to take 55 days to complete, drilling on the Alpha-1 exploration well is located 175 kilometers offshore Disko Island west of Greenland. 

This is only the seventh well to be drilled in the waters offshore Greenland. The first five were drilled in the 1970s, and another well was drilled in 2000.

Cairn has also contracted the Stena Forth drillship to drill the T8 prospect, also on the Sigguk Block. Last week, Cairn confirmed that the T8-1 exploration well has discovered natural gas -- the first hydrocarbons ever discovered in the Baffin Bay.

Water depths on the block range from 300 to 500 meters.

“The actions taken by Greenpeace remain a matter for the Greenlandic authorities,” said Cairn.

It is estimated that the waters offshore West Greenland holds 17 billion barrels of oil equivalent that is yet to be discovered; another 31 billion barrels of oil equivalent is located offshore East Greenland and 3.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent in Northern Greenland.

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