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From the Tehran Times -

The remote oil fields of Greenland could become a new Eldorado for oil companies thanks to a spectacular rise in fossil fuel prices and uncertainty concerning future supplies, experts say.

Greenland will this week launch a new round of concessions for oil and gas exploration and officials expect record bidding.

"We have never known a level of interest for oil exploration like today, which makes us optimistic. Our dream of becoming a heavyweight energy producer could become reality one day," Joern Skov Nielsen, division head of Greenland's Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum, told AFP.

Several U.S. and European oil companies have bought seismic data collected in the Disko bay, which will be opened for exploration in the new round of concessions, said Nielsen. "That's an unmistakable sign of interest," he said.

The fjord and glacier of Ilulissat, situated in the Disko bay, were in 2004 included in Unesco's world heritage sites, and exploration in the ecologically fragile area has been a cause of concern for environmentalists.

Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund have both expressed concern about the effect on whales, shellfish and sea birds living in the area.

Greenland's local government has promised that the environment will be protected.

But it also points out that Disko bay oil production could provide a vital financial windfall for the 58,000 inhabitants of Greenland, mostly inuits, who won home rule from Denmark in 1979.

After six test drillings in 1976, 1977 and 1990 failed to prove the potential for profitable exploitation, record oil prices are now key to unlocking the fuel potential of Greenland, which had previously scared off investors because of the high cost of accessing reserves in waters and land which are icebound for most of the year.

Global warming

Global warming, which affects Greenland more than any other place, has also made the job of finding oil easier by reducing the thick layers of ice.

Greenlanders always have in the back of their minds that the liquid gold could one day finance their complete independence from Denmark on which they still depend for heavy subsidies to shore up their fishery-dependent economy.

Their current hopes focus on Canadian company EnCana, which in January 2005 won a license for offshore oil and gas exploration between the 62nd and 69th parallel, 250 kilometers (156 miles) west of Nuuk.

In 2008, EnCana is to start drilling in the area which is estimated to contain up to two billion of barrels of oil equivalent.

A 2001 U.S. Geological Survey found that north-eastern Greenland, facing Norway, was likely to boast spectacular reserves.

With the water just 100 to 200 meters deep, this sector is said to contain up to 110 billion barrels of oil, half of the known reserves in Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest exporter of oil.

Greenland's government is already thinking about a fifth round of concessions within three or four years, Skov Nielsen said.

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