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article imageGreenpeace boards Stena Don in bid to halt Arctic oil exploration

By Stephanie Dearing     Sep 1, 2010 in Environment
Greenpeace activists said they eluded tight security and gained access to the deepwater drilling ship, the Stena Don, which is anchored between Greenland and Canada in 'iceberg alley' while drilling an exploratory oil well.
Just off the coast of Greenland, in an area known as iceberg alley floats a drilling ship, the Stena Don. Four Greenpeace climbers gained access to the rig early Tuesday morning after eluding heavy security, reported The Guardian.
The occupation, still underway Wednesday, brought condemnation from the government of Greenland, reported Nunatsiaq Online. Greenland's Premier, Kuupik Kleist called the occupation "... an illegal attack on Greenland’s constitutional rights”
Greenpeace International states the occupation is an attempt to persuade oil companies to put an end to offshore oil drilling. The four activists are suspended from the rigging of the Stena Don inside tents, which hold enough essential supplies to keep the activists going for several days. Greenpeace International stated (sic) "... If they succeed in stopping drilling for just a short time the the operators Cairn Energy, will struggle to meet a tight deadline to complete the exploration before winter ice conditions force it to abandon the search for oil off Greenland until next year."
That is because the window of opportunity for drilling in the Arctic is brief, in spite of global warming. Soon it will be too cold and stormy to pursue offshore drilling.
Cairn Energy, a British oil company, is drilling the well off Greenland. The drilling location is one of four approved by the Greenland government for the summer. Cairn has two drilling rigs operating in the area situated between Baffin Island and Greenland.
BP had been one of the companies bidding for the Baffin Island block, reported BNet last week. Cairn's exploration is the first drilling activity for the area, and Cairn has found natural gas at one of the sites.
After the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, many Canadians have called for a moratorium on offshore drilling, particularly for drilling planned for the Arctic, saying an oil spill in the Arctic would be very difficult to clean up. In early August, the Montreal Gazette reported it would take three years to drill a relief well in the Arctic should there be a disaster similar to the BP spill.
That knowledge, said the Montreal Gazette, was not shared with the Canadian government during an inquiry into Arctic oil exploration, even though the head of Canada's agency already knew it is physically impossible for any company to drill a relief well in one season.
Should there be some sort of accident in the Baffin Basin, the crude oil or natural gas released from the well would certainly affect Canada, reported the BBC. While the Canadian government appears to support Greenland's decision to allow offshore drilling, there has been a groundswell of Canadian opposition to Greenland's plans.
Arctic nations have created guidelines for oil and gas developments in the far north, an agreement drafted under the auspices of the Arctic Council. In that document, the Arctic Council acknowledges the dangers of drilling for hydrocarbons in the high Arctic, stating "... the Arctic has high sensitivity to oil spill impacts and the least capacity for natural recovery. During much of the year and under many conditions, response capabilities and methods are limited by environmental conditions, lack of resources capable of responding in a timely manner, and limited technologies for responding to oil spills in ice conditions."
A few weeks ago, Greenpeace set sail from London England on it's ship, Esperanza, on a mission to confront oil industries.
Greenland police say the Greenpeace occupation of the Stena Don is illegal, and the activists will be prosecuted.
The Steena Don is accompanied by a Danish war ship, the Vædderen, as well as several Greenland police boats reported the Copenhagen Post.
It is thought the Baffin Basin could be the site of hydrocarbon riches worth billions.
More about Stena don, Greenpeace, Arctic, Deepwater oil drilling, Greenland
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