Scottish company Cairn Energy has been awarded a further three blocks to explore for oil and gas off the coast of Greenland.
There are hopes the waters could hold billions of barrels, but drilling in the area led to a protest by environmental campaigners on a rig working for the Scottish company earlier this year.
Despite this action, the Greenland government has now allocated seven licences for Baffin Bay to Cairn, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Statoil, GDF Suez, Maersk Oil, Dong Energy and Nunaoil.
Cairn’s three blocks were all awarded to it in partnership with Greenland’s publicly owned oil company, Nunaoil.
Competition for the most attractive blocks in the round was said to have been fierce.
Simon Thomson, legal and commercial director at Cairn, said: “Cairn Energy welcomes the decision by the government of Greenland to award blocks 13, 14 and 6 (11,196 square miles) to the company in the recent Baffin Bay bid round.
Cairn now has interests in acreage offshore Greenland totalling 81,000 square kilometres (31,274 square miles) in 11 blocks.”
Ove Karl Berthelsen, Greenland’s minister for industry and mineral resources, said: “The result of the licensing round is an important step towards achieving a sustainable economy for Greenland.
“The companies that have been awarded a licence were selected according to a thorough evaluation of, for example, their financial and technical strengths, and their experience in managing safety, health and environmental issues.
“I am therefore very confident that the licence holders will help explore Greenland’s oil potential in a safe and appropriate manner.
“Safety has top priority and I shall be looking forward to following the results of their work.”
Cairn dashed investor hopes last month after admitting it had failed to make a significant oil find so far in any of its three wells in Greenland waters.
The Edinburgh-based oil explorer said it had plugged two wells after failing to find large commercial quantities of oil or gas.
A third well has now been suspended after it failed to dig deep enough to find oil, although it could be reopened next year when drilling restarts after winter.
It is thought Cairn was unable to reach the depth it was aiming for in the third well within the short Arctic drilling season, partially because of delays caused by the Greenpeace protesters.
Activists from the environmental group scaled the Stena Don rig in August, suspending themselves from the structure.
They were protesting against what they said were the huge risks energy companies were taking with the environment by drilling for oil in deep water.
The Scottish oil explorer is writing off £117.5million in costs incurred so far on the failed exploration drilling operations.
Cairn, led by former Scottish rugby international and founder Sir Bill Gammell, is still hopeful of striking oil next year.
Deputy chief executive Mike Watts said last month: “Exploration in Greenland is at a very early stage and consequently to have encountered both gas and oil in two of the first frontier exploration wells in the previously undrilled Baffin Bay geological basin is extremely encouraging. Plans for the forward exploration programme in 2011 are already under way and will be announced in the first quarter of 2011.”
Cairn was the first explorer to be given permission to drill in Baffin Bay, in Greenland waters, for nearly 35 years.
India’s oil secretary said yesterday that a decision on Cairn Energy’s application to transfer stakes in its Indian assets to Vedanta Resources will be taken before the end of February.
India-focused miner Vedanta has offered to buy a controlling share of the Scottish group’s Cairn India subsidiary for up to £6billion.