Robin McKie

ExxonMobil and Shell compete to drill in Arctic wilderness

In a few days’ time, officials at the Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum in Greenland will reveal the winners of a new round of licences to drill for oil and gas in its waters. The announcement promises to be explosive.

Among those waiting are most of the world’s leading oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Shell and Norway’s StatOil. Watching with equal attention will be the planet’s leading green groups, who they have pledged to block every effort to drill in the Arctic.

“The Arctic is the last pristine refuge in the northern hemisphere and it is simply not acceptable for oil companies to come here to drill and risk triggering a disaster that would dwarf the Deepwater Horizon spill,” said Ben Ayliffe, senior energy campaigner at Greenpeace. Its ship, the Esperanza, is currently trying to disrupt drilling in the Davis Strait off the Greenland mainland. “We are going to make a real fight of this,”he said.

Last week the future of drilling in the Arctic hit the headlines when it emerged that BP, in the wake of the disastrous oil spill off America’s Gulf Coast, would not be bidding for contracts in the region. But the other oil giants will.

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