The exploration of the Arctic for petroleum is more technically challenging than for any other environment. However, with increases in technology, continuing high oil prices and drastic melting of glaciers and ice due to global warming (making it easier to drill and explore), the region is now receiving the interest of the petroleum industry.
President Obama moved to solidify his environmental legacy Tuesday by withdrawing hundreds of millions of acres of federally owned land in the Arctic and Atlantic Ocean from new offshore oil and gas drilling.[ More ]
The author lists a few policy recommendations or questions that need to be answered regarding U.S. Arctic strategy if the U.S. wants to "stay ahead of or even keep pace with our foreign rivals, remain globally competitive, or provide global leadership and influence in this critical region."[ More ]
Shell has abandoned its controversial drilling operations in the Alaskan Arctic in the face of mounting opposition in what jubilant environmentalists described as “an unmitigated defeat” for big oil.[ More ]
Shell is considering drilling for oil in the Arctic but it may not be worth the risk of public outrage due to the inevitability of catastrophic oil spills and the increasing realization that extracting Arctic oil would pose a grave risk to the global climate.[ More ]
Royal Dutch Shell PLC is days away from drilling in the Arctic Ocean—betting it can find enough oil to justify the huge risks that keep almost every other competitor out of those icy waters.[ More ]
The United Nations’ top climate official took a subtle poke at the Obama administration on Wednesday over its decision to conditionally allow oil exploration off Alaska’s coast, suggesting that the Arctic’s oil and gas should stay underground.[ More ]
As known sources of oil are depleted, previously inaccessible areas of hydrocarbon wealth are becoming prospective targets of exploration. Namely, the Arctic.[ More ]
China is actively pursuing cooperation with Arctic countries and companies engaged in the development of Arctic oil and resources that can be mined.[ More ]
If there’s oil in them thar hills, it should stay there. That’s the message of a new study that argues the bulk of remaining fossil fuels should remain in the ground, rather than being mined, fracked, extracted, or tapped.[ More ]
Scientists have realized for some time now that the extraction of fossil fuels must dramatically slow down if the global temperature rise is to be kept under 2°C. A new study in the science journal Nature, however, is the first to specify and quantify which regions of the world need to cool it on the oil, gas, and coal and it estimates that for the Arctic, 100% of the resources must remain undeveloped.[ More ]
It also includes massive oil and gas deposits—the main reason the region is so economically promising. Located primarily in western Siberia and Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, the Arctic’s oil and gas fields account for 10.5 percent of global oil production and 25.5 percent of global gas production. And those numbers could soon jump. Initial estimates suggest that the Arctic may be home to an estimated 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil and gas deposits, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. These riches have become newly accessible and attractive, thanks to retreating sea ice, a lengthening summer drilling season, and new exploration technologies.
Private companies are already moving in. Despite high extraction costs and regulatory hurdles, Shell has invested $5 billion to look for oil in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, and the Scottish company Cairn Energy has invested $1 billion do the same off the coast of Greenland. Gazprom and Rosneft are planning to invest many billions of dollars more to develop the Russian Arctic, where the state-owned companies are partnering with ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Eni, and Statoil to tap remote reserves in Siberia. The fracking boom may eventually exert down- ward pressure on oil prices, but it hasn’t changed the fact that the Arctic contains tens of billions of barrels of conventional oil that will one day contribute to a greater global supply. Moreover, that boom has also reached the Arctic. Oil fracking exploration has already begun in northern Alaska, and this past spring, Shell and Gazprom signed a major deal to develop shale oil in the Russian Arctic.
According to a 2008 assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), “the total mean undiscovered conventional oil and gas resources in the Arctic are estimated to be approximately 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,669 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.”17 The overwhelming majority of these resources—84 percent—is expected to occur in offshore areas. Over 70 percent “of the mean undiscovered oil resources is estimated to occur in five provinces: Arctic Alaska, Amerasia Basin, East Greenland Rift Basins, East Barents Basins, and West Green- land-East Canada.”18 Similarly, over 70 percent “of the undiscovered natural gas is estimated to occur in three provinces: the West Siberian Basin, the East Barents Basins, and Arctic Alaska.”19 Arctic Alaska, the Amerasia Ba- sin, and the North Chukchi-Wrangel Foreland Basin provinces, portions of which could be claimed by the United States, account for over 40 million barrels of oil, 284 billion cubic feet of natural gas, 6.5 million barrels of natural gas liquids and 94 million barrels of oil and oil-equivalent natural gas.20 The value of these resources is estimated to be in the trillions of dollars.21
The U.S. Geological Survey released a report in 2008 that indicated approximately 13 percent of the world’s untapped oil reserves reside in the Arctic region. One-third of these reserves lie inside the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the northern slope of Alaska. The report also estimated that approximately 30 percent of the world’s remaining natural gas reserves reside within the Arctic region.19 In recent years, icecap melting, along with advances in technology, has rendered retrieval of natural resources in the Arctic both feasible and acceptable in terms of environmental risk.
Oil and natural gas are not the only resources likely to be found in the Arctic valuable minerals may also exist on the seabed. Scientists have long known about unconventional mineral ore deposits known as manganese nodules. These nodules are spherical accretions of manganese, cobalt, copper and nickel which precipitate out of sea water at depth. n48 They form when warm solutions of dissolved metals from the earth's crust leach into cold ocean waters, and they are found on roughly a quarter of the ocean floor.n49 Recovering the nodules can be technically difficult. The nodules are usually found under at least 2 miles of water and dredging them stirs large quantities of sediment which seriously disrupts marine habitat.n50 Thus, excitement surrounding the minerals has calmed significantly since the 1970's.n51 Not only must the technology become cheaper and more widely available, but industrial commodity prices must also remain high to make manganese nodules profitable.n52
The largest deposits are found in the Arctic off the coast of Russia. The Russian state-controlled oil company Gazprom has approximately 113 trillion cubic feet of gas already under development in the fields it owns in the Barents Sea. The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources calculates that the territory claimed by Moscow could contain as much as 586 billion barrels of oil -- although these deposits are unproven. By comparison, all of Saudi Arabia's current proven oil reserves -- which admittedly exclude unexplored and speculative resources -- amount to only 260 billion barrels. The U.S. Geological Survey is just now launching the first comprehensive study of the Arctic's resources. The first areas to be studied are the 193,000-square-mile East Greenland Rift Basins. According to initial seismic readings, they could contain 9 billion barrels of oil and 86 trillion cubic feet of gas. Altogether, the Alaskan Arctic coast appears to hold at least 27 billion barrels of oil.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic region is the largest unexplored prospective area for petroleum remaining on earth with an estimated ninety billion barrels of undiscovered oil reserves, and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In addition, the unpredictability of the Persian Gulf region makes the Arctic region even more attractive for exploitation.
- U.S. has significant economic interest in Arctic oil reserves
- Warm arctic will increase availability of key resources including minerals and oil
- U.S. access to Arctic mineral and oil wealth depends on accession to UNCLOS
- Trillions of dollars of natural resources waiting to be developed in the Arctic
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