AROUND 90billion barrels of oil and a third of the world’s undiscovered natural gas lie beneath an area north of the Arctic Circle, according to a new survey.
It accounts for about a fifth of the world’s recoverable oil and natural gas reserves – 13% of the oil, 30% of the natural gas and 20% of the natural gas liquids.
The US Geological Survey called the region, which includes parts of the US, Russia and Canada, “the largest unexplored prospective area for petroleum remaining on Earth”. At today’s current consumption rate of 86million barrels a day, the yet-to-be-tapped oil in the Arctic would supply global demand for three years.
Pursuing it is sure to be controversial with environmental groups that want to protect the pristine wilderness and the area’s endangered species.
The oil is considered “technically recoverable” using existing technology.
Melting caused by global warming has opened up some areas that were previously considered too difficult to reach.
Oil companies have already spent billions to secure leases to explore some of the uncharted waters.
About 84% of the undiscovered oil and gas is offshore, the survey estimated, but much of it is close enough to land to fall under national territorial claims.
About a third of the oil found in the survey is off the coast of Alaska. The majority of the natural gas is concentrated in two Russian 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,” director Mark Myers said.
“With this assessment,” he said, “we’re providing the same information to everyone in the world so that the global community can make those difficult decisions.”