Maersk Drilling is going to be a key player in opening the Arctic to oil exploration by developing rigs that can drill for oil year-round under extreme conditions.
Speaking to financial daily Børsen, Claus Hemmingsen, head of Maersk Drilling, said the company was investing heavily in developing the technology to unlock the Arctic’s bounty.
“Between a quarter and a third of the remaining oil reserves lies in the Arctic – it’s clearly attractive and it should be explored,” Hemmingsen said. “The project we are now working on is about finding a way to drill year-round so we can also drill when there is ice. It is possible.”
Maersk Drilling belongs to the A.P. Moller Maersk group which also has an oil company, Maersk Oil. But while Maersk Drilling has taken out patents for technology that would allow them to drill in the Arctic, Maersk Oil only owns a limited number of licences for drilling in the Arctic.
It is therefore likely that Maersk Drilling will team up with other companies that have larger drilling licences in the region, such as Shell and Gazprom.
Environmental groups have long opposed oil exploration in the Arctic over fears of the environmental damage that would be caused by an oil disaster similar to the enormous spill in 2010 resulting from a blowout of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
Hemmingsen said, however, that ensuring both a high level of expertise among staff and the correct technology would prevent any future disasters.
“It’s clear that if we are going to build a rig for the Arctic region, we need to make it as environmentally-friendly as possible and ensure that the equipment satisfies the highest standards,” Hemmingsen told Børsen.
Such messages mean little to organisations such as Greenpeace that have called for a moratorium on oil drilling in the Arctic and have repeatedly disrupted attempts to drill for oil by boarding oil rigs.
According to Børsen, Maersk Drilling needs to reach a target of contributing about 6 billion kroner a year in profit to A.P. Moller Maersk. Last year the company made 2,900 million kroner in profit from a 11 billion dollar turnover.
As a result, the company is investing 55 billion kroner to add to its fleet of drilling rigs, many of which are already specialised for drilling in tough climates such as the North Sea.