SCOTTISH oil explorer Cairn Energy said yesterday it was excited by the potential it saw in Greenland, despite not striking oil in the area so far.
It is looking to possibly add a fifth well to its 2011 drilling programme in the location, which it hopes will become a new oil province.
Edinburgh-based Cairn is also lining up exploration opportunities in the eastern Mediterranean.
The company said it planned to take part in a licensing round due to take place in Lebanon next year.
Cairn’s success in securing exploration rights there would add acreage in a politically sensitive part of the world. Lebanon and Israel do not agree on their maritime border and remain in a formal state of war.
Simon Thomson – who took over as Cairn’s chief executive in June when former Scotland rugby international Sir Bill Gammell switched roles to become chairman – shrugged off concerns about the region.
Mr Thomson said: “Obviously we will assess, as we do anywhere, the political technical and commercial risks in whatever we do, but there’s nothing that’s stopping us being interested in this licensing round.”
Cairn, which also has its eyes on a licensing round in Cyprus next year, is no stranger to controversy.
Its exploration programme off Greenland has attracted criticism from environmental groups which argue that an oil spill in the remote Arctic would be difficult to clean up.
Cairn defended its oilspill-response plan yesterday, saying Greenland’s government and other independent experts were satisfied that it was robust.
Environmental campaign group Greenpeace says the firm’s activities threaten the fragile Arctic environment.
A spokeswoman for the group said yesterday: “Cairn is halfway through this year’s Arctic drilling season but still has nothing to show for it.
“What was already an unattractive investment now looks even riskier.
“Shell’s North Sea spill showed that even in the supposedly ultra-safe North Sea, oil companies can’t be trusted. Yet Cairn is happy to carry on regardless, gambling with the pristine Arctic.”
Greenpeace halted Cairn’s drilling in the area earlier this year and has also staged protests at the company’s headquarters. These activities prompted court injunctions barring the campaign group from further disruptions to drilling and its activists from returning to Cairn’s Edinburgh offices and publishing any pictures already taken there.
Results announced by Cairn yesterday showed a surge in pre-tax profits to £443.9million during the six months to June 30, compared with £53.3million 12 months earlier.
Revenue during the latest period came in at £785million, up from £202million previously.
The company is selling a controlling stake in its Cairn India business to mining group Vedanta Resources.
Cairn’s chairman said yesterday all parties involved were now working to satisfy the consents and conditions to complete the sale as soon as possible.
Sir Bill, who founded Cairn Energy Management in 1980 and listed the business on the Stock Exchange in 1988, added: “We are excited about the exploration potential of the multiple frontier basins offshore Greenland.
“We look forward to further results from the 2011 season.”
Cairn, which will have spent more than £600million on its Greenland operations by the end of this year, added that it believed there was significant production growth still to come from the Rajasthan-focused Cairn India business.