Sometimes talk is not enough. Sometimes people need to stand up and act. The oil industry has throughout history shown a lack of respect for people and the environment. Now here in the frozen north they are doing it again. Cairn doesn't care about the Arctic or the people who live here.

Greenpeace has been accused of running a campaign of misinformation by the Greenlandic minister of the Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum, Ove Karl Berthelsen.

That is a harsh, and clearly false, accusation.

I would like to address the three main strands of criticism and provide the sources behind the facts we are using in our argument against Cairn’s risky and unnecessary oil drilling.

We say: One single exploratory drilling discharges more red listed chemicals than all the Norwegian and Danish drillings combined.

The overall amount of discharged chemicals is problematic. The chemicals are categorised and the red listed chemicals defined by OSPAR (Oslo-Paris Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic) as chemicals that “gives reason for suspicion because of several polluting effects on the environment and for that reason should be substituted”.

Every single Greenlandic exploratory drilling will discharge between 45 and 48 tons of red listed chemicals. That means that this year alone 187 tonnes will be discharged in to the Greenlandic sea. This is stated in the drilling license given by the Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum appendix 3, p. 81-97.

The overall discharge from Danish drillings was in 2009 1.4 tons according the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (lastest public figures). In 2009 Norway discharged 32 tons of red listed chemicals from all of its oil drillings (down from almost 4,000 tons in 1997) according to the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency.

In the submission from the Danish National Environmental Research Institute the formulation is not so ‘green’ as the Greenlandic Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum claim it is. On the first page of the submission you find that “the discharges of red chemicals is substantial (aprox. 200 tons from all four drillings) and in the longer term unacceptable (…) Capricorn has in supplementary documents explained the safety issues that makes the water based drilling mud used in Norway unfavourable solution for drillings in Greenland, 2011. The Danish National Environmental Research Institute has accepted this explanation after informal valuation by the environmental authorities in Norway”.

The Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum has also demanded that Capricorn (Cairn) develop a plan for substitution and a roadmap to phase out the use of red chemicals later on. This is stated in the drilling license given by the Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum on p. 66.

Later on Cairn told the Greenlandic broadcast company, KNR, that the oil company has no intention to follow that demand.

On critical issues the Greenlandic drillings is not in terms with Norwegian standards.

The Bureau of Minerals & Petroleum and Cairn Energy often claim, that ‘the drilling is carried out in accordance with very high demands for security and environmental protection’. This is not true.

For instance the Norwegian standards demand a zero discharge or, alternatively, minimal discharges of all chemicals. Red chemicals have extra high priority for substitution. This is stated in the Norwegian operational plan p. 64.

Best practise is more stringent than the Norwegian standards. For instance the rules regarding discharges in the Barents Sea and Lofoten in Norway are more stringent. In general there is zero discharge of red listed chemicals. This is stated in the Norwegian operational plan p. 65-66 box 5.2 & 5.3.

We say: Cairn and the Greenlandic Government is keeping the oil spill plan secret.

The director of The Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum, Jørn Skov Nielsen, has told Danish media, that the Greenpeace accusation regarding the Greenlandic government holding the oil spill response plan secret is not true. This is clearly false as you can see from our freedom of information application into the plan.

Among other things an oil spill response plan should contain:

  • Risk scenarios and a worst case scenario
  • Priority of where to focus on a clean up in case of an oil spill
  • What this priority covers in relation to different seasons, fertilization season and breeding seasons of affected species
  • A scenario for which methods and resources will be put in use

Cairn Energy has published some oil spill scenarios, but everything that explains what to do in case of a oil spill, and for instance an estimation on how much of the oil Cairn will be able to recover, is not published. The Arctic Council , of which Greenland is a member, recommends that an oil spill response plan should be public. In the council guidelines on offshore drillings in the Arctic it says on p. 45, that “Operators should allow the opportunity for public review and comment on the (oil spill response) plan”.

According to the Norwegian standards an oil spill response plan has to be public – see page 7 in this report from the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency.

If the Greenlandic Government wishes to challenge anything else we’ve said, will update this blog with our response.

We play with an open hand.

Mads Christensen
Executive Director
Greenpeace Nordic