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Polar bear

Greenland is an autonomous country within the Danish Realm located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. It is the world's largest island, over three-quarters of which is covered by a permanent ice sheet.

Greenland has been inhabited for over 4,500 years by Arctic people who originally migrated from Canada. Norsemen settled in the south of the region in the 10th century and the territory was absorbed into the Norwegian crown in 1262. Inuit people arrived in the 13th century.

In the mid-14th century Norway united with Denmark but Norway lost sovereignty over Greenland in 1814 when this union dissolved and it became a Danish colony. It was incorporated as part of the Danish Realm in 1953.

In 1973 Greenland joined the European Union (with Denmark) but in 1979 Denmark granted home rule and it subsequently withdrew from the EU in 1985.

From 2008 wide-ranging powers have been transferred to local government but Denmark continues to control foreign affairs, defence and monetary policy.

The economy depends on fishing and fish exports although its mineral business is expanding.

Geological mapping of Greenland has taken place since the early 20th Century, however the search for hydrocarbons did not begin until the discovery of oil in Alaska in 1968.

Since then exploration activity has been concentrated offshore in the south and central west where Cretaceous to Tertiary sediments deposited during the opening of the Labrador Sea are recognised.

A few wells have been drilled over the years, mostly offshore, targeting geological plays with analogies in Canada. However, none have been successful including those drilled during the latest exploration phase in 2010 and 2011.

With the discovery of fields in the North Sea in Norway and the UK, attention has also been directed to potentially analogous sediments in east Greenland but no wells have been drilled in this environmentally sensitive area.

Thus the country still has no identified indigenous oil or gas resources. Although offshore and onshore basins near the coast may have some potential, particularly for gas, the country is unlikely to achieve any production in the short and medium term and no output has been forecast by Globalshift.


Map and National Flag

Brief history of the territory (Denmark)

North America


E and P


Oil and gas summary



Land area (sq kms)

Oil prod (000s b/d)

Gas prod (bcm/yr)

Oil cons (000s b/d)

Gas cons (bcm/yr)



0.06 mm






The Danish government appoints a High Commissioner to represent the head of state who is Denmark’s monarch. Greenland also elects 2 representatives to Denmark's parliament and it has its own 31-member parliament led by a Prime Minister.

Nunaoil is the NOC founded in 1985 in equal partnership with DONG Energy. It is a non paying partner in all licenses holding a minimum of 8.5% stake.

In 2006 DONG sold its shares to the Danish State which transferred them to Greenland in 2009. In 2021 the government ended its strategy to find oil.

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