Oil and Natural Gas Resources of the Arctic

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The area above the Arctic Circle is underlain by sedimentary basins and continental shelves that hold enormous oil and natural gas resources. Most of this area is poorly explored for oil and natural gas; however, the United States Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic contains approximately 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil resources and about 30 percent of its undiscovered conventional natural gas resources.

This makes the Arctic an incredibly rich area. It is about the same geographic size as the African continent – about 6% of Earth’s surface area – yet it holds an estimated 22 percent of Earth’s oil and natural gas resource. [3]

Most of the exploration in the Arctic to-date has taken place on land. This work has resulted in the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field in Alaska, the Tazovskoye Field in Russia and hundreds of smaller fields, many of which are on Alaska’s North Slope. Land accounts for about 1/3 of the Arctic’s area and is thought to hold about 16% of the Arctic’s remaining undiscovered oil and gas resource. [4]

About 1/3 of the Arctic area is continental shelves which have been very lightly explored. The Arctic continental shelves are the largest geographic area on Earth with enormous probable resources that remains virtually unexplored. The remaining 1/3 of the Arctic is deep ocean waters over 500 meters deep, and this area is unexplored. [4]

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