Resources in Greenland

The US Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic could hold 25% of the world’s oil. This would amount to:

  • 90 x 10^9 barrels of recoverable oil
  • 1,670 x10^12 cubic feet of recoverable natural gas
  • 44 x10^9 barrels of recoverable natural gas in liquids

If this is correct, the Arctic accounts for:

  • 13% of undiscovered oil
  • 30% of undiscovered natural gas
  • 20% of undiscovered natural gas in fluid.

About 84% of this is predicted to be offshore.Plankton blooms have suggested that fishing supplies will also improve.

However, the Arctic is a comparatively fragile environment, so environmental groups have called for a treaty similar to that regulating the Antarctic.Resolving the territorial dispute over the Arctic is especially important because scientists believe rising temperatures would eave most of the arctic ice-free in summer months by a few decades’ time.

Greenland oil rush, 2010

Cairn Energy is a Scottish company at the centre of the Greenlandic oil rush. Extracting oil from Greenland would be very expensive but it would also be more politically stable than other sources of oil, such as the Middle East suppliers. This could even be economically viable in a few years once oil prices start to rise again.

Problems with exploitation

  • Norwegian green group Bellona is concerned with Russian exploitation of oil and gas in the Barents, Pechora and Kara as they use inefficient, old equipment that damages ecosystems with little environmental regulation
  • The head of the WWF-Norway’s climate and energy program has more objections: to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we must have almost eliminated fossil fuels from our global energy mix by 2050, leaving little room to exploit resources from the Arctic.
  • Rate of failure of steel in cold temperatures
  • Many hours of darkness in winter
  • Remoteness
  • Suitability of existing equipment
  • Oil and gas price uncertainty
  • Troubled relations with natives
  • Little known about impacts of oil spills on freezing areas; they could have massive impacts on local ecosystems
  • No effective method for cleaning up and containing an oil spill in icy conditions
  • Greenland’s minister for industry and mineral resources says his country has to achieve a sustainable economy for Greenland
  • Arctic sea-ice has been disappearing for decades, due to climate change, which would only be exacerbated by further exploitation. Arctic air is warming twice as fast as the air of the rest of the world. If current trends continue, a largely ice-free Arctic in the summer months could occur within 30 years.

Northwest Passage transport route

There is an increase in seaborne traffic is beginning to move on the so-called southern sea route along the Siberian coast. There are plans to open a passage above Canada.

Attractions of this route include:

  • 1/3 of the length along the traditional routes such as the Suez canal
  • Less CO2 emissions and less fuel
  • Fewer pirates; attacks in areas like Somalia have become far more common recently

Greenlandic extraction

Extraction of oil in Greenland has been sold off to various different groups wiht licences. The largest plot is in waters off the West coast of Greenland, and held with an oil exploration and exploitation licence.


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