Cairn calls up Statoil for Arctic quest

Cairn Energy, the explorer whose bid to find commercial quantities of oil in Greenland has been a consistent disappointment, has brought in Norway's Statoil as a partner to help with the next phase of Arctic exploration.

Cairn, founded by Sir Bill Gammell, pictured, put its two-year quest for Arctic oil on hold in December, after its eighth successive exploration well came up dry and the cost of its mission reached $1bn (£640m).

The company said it would stop drilling this year, to review the exploration data it has amassed and search for a deep-pocketed partner with oil-producing expertise in the Arctic before boring new wells next year.

Yesterday's deal – which could be the first of several so-called farm-out deals – will hand Statoil a 30.6 per cent stake in the Pitu licence in Baffin Bay for an undisclosed price.

Simon Thomson, Cairn's chief executive, said: "In Greenland, Statoil's extensive Arctic operating and development experience makes them the partner of choice."

Cairn will continue as the operator of the Pitu licence and will retain a 56.9 per cent stake in the project.

In addition to the Arctic, Cairn is also thought to be mulling a move into the Falkland Islands, following the first significant find in the area by Rockhopper Exploration.