BP said Thursday that it decided not to bid for a drilling license near Greenland, a move government officials there say may be due to its tarnished safety image after the disastrous blowout of a deepwater well in the Gulf of Mexico.
"We were aware of the licensing round," said BP spokesman Robert Wine. "We did get involved in it in the preliminary stages, and decided not to proceed with a bid."
Wine declined to discuss the reasons for the decision, or to say whether it was made before or after the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20. Greenland's premier, however, made it clear that the Gulf disaster had affected his government's approach to drilling and that a company's safety record was key.
"Of course we are influenced by what happened in the Gulf right now. And we know that we are taking on a huge responsibility on our shoulders," Kuupik Kleist told a news conference on Wednesday.
Wine indicated that BP had not ruled out bidding for future licenses around the world.
"We would obviously be interested in any (licensing) rounds coming up," he said.
Britain's Cairn Energy said on Tuesday that it had found gas off the west coast of Greenland, but no oil yet.
The announcement put the North Atlantic territory in the spotlight of global concerns about the risks of drilling at sea. Greenpeace's ship Esperanza was circling the oil rig in protest over what spokesman Ben Steart called "the reckless push toward an Arctic oil run."
Ove Karl Berthelsen, Greenland's minister in charge of mineral resources, said Thursday that he did not know whether there had been direct or indirect contacts with BP, but said the Gulf disaster could have been a factor in BP's decision not to bid.
"We are looking very thoroughly at the tenders we get," Berthelsen said. "We look at their history and how they have built up their reputation on safety policy. We look very thoroughly at that."
"Our administrative office knows very well that the government focuses very, very much on safety. And it wouldn't surprise me if those considerations (about BP) have been part of their thinking."
Berthelsen said no decision has yet been made on the next licensing round.
Kleist, the premier, said Greenland would try to follow Norway's example.
"We don't claim that there's no risk but we're trying to do our best. We're looking at best practices, wherever there might be. We're learning from the Norwegian experience and we stick to Norwegian standards that are known as the world's most protective standards," he said.
Shares of BP were higher in London trading and closed higher in New York trading Wednesday.