Arctic oil and gas reserves assessed

The first comprehensive assessment of Arctic oil and gas deposits indicates that 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30% of its undiscovered natural gas could lie beneath the region’s icy waters and barren land, the journal Science reported. World trends in oil and gas are unlikely to change as a result, and Russia probably will remain the top natural-gas producer.


Donald Gautier of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and colleagues created a geological map of the Arctic to identify sedimentary rocks, which have the potential to carry oil and gas. They further divided the rocks into specific groups based on their geologic properties and compared them with groups elsewhere in the world known to contain oil and gas, Science said.


This week, the researchers reported that the Arctic likely contains about 83 billion barrels of undiscovered oil, or about 4% of the world’s remaining conventional oil. That would be enough to sustain global demand for almost three years. Additionally, the region probably contains about 1,550 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — enough to meet demand for roughly14 years. Most of the resources lie offshore under less than 500 metres of water, they found.


Steve Amstrup, a wildlife biologist with the USGS, noted that one of the identified high-potential areas – off north-western Alaska — is important for marine animals, including polar bears, seals and whales.


Dwindling oil reserves, waning opportunities for exploration elsewhere and the melting of sea ice have recently made the Arctic an attractive option in the quest for energy resources.


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