Greenland has suspended oil exploration and will not issue any more licences for oil and gas exploration despite the island’s touted hydrocarbon potential.

A recent study from the Geological Survey of Denmark & Greenland estimates there are 18 billion barrels of de-risked oil on the west coast of Greenland.

Large deposits are also expected to be located below the seabed offshore the island’s east coast.

However, the Greenlandic government (Naalakkersuisut) said it believes that the price of oil extraction is too high based upon economic calculations; considerations of the impact on climate and the environment also played a central role in its decision.

“Against this background, Naalakkersuisut has decided to cease issuing new licences for oil and gas exploration in Greenland. This step has been taken for the sake of our nature, for the sake of our fisheries, for the sake of our tourism industry, and to focus our business on sustainable potentials,” the government said.

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Greenland’s recently installed government was elected on a platform opposing oil exploration, although some on the Arctic island had hoped a significant hydrocarbon discovery could reduce financial and administrative dependence on Denmark.

Greenland still has four active hydrocarbon exploration licences, held by two small independents.

UK-based explorer Greenland Gas & Oil (GGO) in early 2019 was awarded a new licence and gained another extension to existing acreage onshore south-east Greenland.

GGO secured a 93.75% operating stake in licence 2018/40 with co-venturer Nuna Oil on 6.25%.

The government then also approved extensions of exploration periods for two onshore west Greenland licences to the end of 2020.

Greenland had earlier also attracted industry heavyweights.

US supermajor Chevron in late 2017 relinquished exploration blocks 2013/46 and 2013/45 where it had been partnered by Shell, Greenland Petroleum and state-owned Nuna Oil after a multi-year seismic surveying campaign.

Greenland's Natural Resources Minister Naaja Nathanielsen said the environmental and climatic impacts of further oil and gas extraction were "too high" when weighed against potential financial gains and it was therefore being halted.

"The future does not lie in oil. The future belongs to renewable energy, and in that respect we have much more to gain," the cabinet said, stressing sustainable farming of its natural resources such as fisheries stemming from Inuit traditions.

The Minister for Agriculture, Self-sufficiency, Energy & Environment, Kalistat Lund said: “Naalakkersuisut [the Greenland administration] takes climate change seriously. We can see the consequences in our country every day and we are ready to contribute to global solutions to counter climate change.

“Naalakkersuisut is working to attract new investments for the large hydropower potential that we cannot exploit ourselves. The decision to stop new exploration for oil will contribute to place Greenland as the country where sustainable investments are taken seriously.”

The government’s decision to suspend oil exploration was taken on 24 June but only made public on 15 July.