USGS: Arctic holds 90 billion bbl of undiscovered oil

Nick Snow
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, July 24 -- The area north of the Arctic Circle contains an estimated 90 billion bbl of undiscovered, technically recoverable crude oil, reported the US Geological Survey July 23 as it released its first petroleum resource estimate of the region.

The Arctic, especially offshore, is essentially unexplored with respect to petroleum, it noted.

The region also contains an estimated 1,670 tcf of technically recoverable gas and 44 million bbl of technically recoverable natural gas liquids in 25 geologically defined areas thought to have petroleum potential, the US Department of the Interior agency said.

It said the resources represent about 22% of the world's undiscovered, technically recoverable petroleum resources (about 13% of the oil, 30% of the gas, and 20% of the gas liquids). About 84% of the estimated resources are offshore, USGS said.

USGS said that the appraisal was part of a project to assess global petroleum basins using standardized and consistent methods and controls. It said that it worked with a number of international agencies to geologically analyze the Arctic provinces.

"Before we can make decisions about our future use of oil and gas and related decisions about protecting endangered species, native communities, and the health of our planet, we need to know what's out there. With this assessment, we're providing the same information to everyone in the world so that the global community can make these difficult decisions," USGS Director Mark Myers said.

The assessment said more than half of the undiscovered oil resources are believed to be in just three provinces: Arctic Alaska, the Amerasia basin and the East Greenland Rift basins. Gas is estimated to be three times more abundant than oil in the Arctic on an equivalency basis, with more than 70% of it occurring in the West Siberian basin, the East Barents basins and Arctic Alaska, it indicated.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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