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Oil and gas bonanza discovered in the Arctic

30 percent of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13 percent of its undiscovered oil is located north of the Arctic Circle, offering a potential bonanza for Russia, report researchers writing in the journal Science.

Assessing natural resources around the North Pole, researchers from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) say the majority of undiscovered oil and gas will be found underwater on continental shelves, providing economic opportunities for countries with Arctic claims, including the U.S., Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Norway and Russia. The largest deposits of natural gas are expected in areas claimed by both Russia and Norway, whereas the most likely place for oil in the Arctic is in the Chukchi Sea, off northern Alaska.

recoverable gas in the arctic

Map showing the AUs of the CARA is color-coded for mean estimated undiscovered oil and gas. Only areas north of the Arctic Circle are included in the estimates. AU labels are the same as in table S1. Black lines indicate AU boundaries. Courtesy of Science. Click images to enlarge.

The researchers used a probabilistic geology-based methodology to estimate that the Arctic contains “more than three times as much undiscovered gas as oil.” They estimate the probability of discovering more than 770 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas north of the Arctic Circle is more than 95 percent, more than 1,547 TCF is 50 percent, and more than 2,990 TCF is 5 percent. For comparison, current world gas consumption is almost 110 TCF per year.

“The median estimate of undiscovered gas is a volume larger than the volume of total gas so far discovered in the Arctic and represents about 30% of global undiscovered conventional gas,” the authors write.

For oil, the study estimates a 95 percent chance that more than 44 billion barrels of oil (BBO) will be found in the Arctic, a 50 percent probability of more than 83 BBO, and a 5 percent likelihood of more than 157 BBO.

The study says estimates will improve as more geological information becomes available.

“These estimates do not include technological or economic risks, so a substantial fraction of the estimated undiscovered resources might never be produced,” they authors write. “Development will depend on market conditions, technological innovation, and the sizes of undiscovered accumulations.”

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