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USGS Estimates the Arctic Holds About 22% of Global Undiscovered, Technically Recoverable Oil, Gas and NGLs

Assessment units (AUs) in the Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal (CARA) color-coded by assessed probability of the presence of at least one undiscovered oil and/or gas field with recoverable resources greater than 50 million barrels of oil equivalent (MMBOE). Probabilities for AUs are based on the entire area of the AU, including any parts south of the Arctic Circle. Click to enlarge.

The area north of the Arctic Circle has an estimated 90 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil, 1,670 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of technically recoverable natural gas liquids (NGLs) in 25 geologically defined areas thought to have potential for petroleum, according to an assessment by the US Geological Survey (USGS). The assessment from the USGS Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal (earlier post) is the first publicly available petroleum resource estimate of the entire area north of the Arctic Circle.

These resources account for about 22% of the undiscovered, technically recoverable resources in the world. The Arctic accounts for about 13% of the undiscovered oil, 30% of the undiscovered natural gas, and 20% of the undiscovered natural gas liquids in the world. About 84% of the estimated resources are expected to occur offshore.

Of the estimated totals, more than half of the undiscovered oil resources are estimated to occur in just three geologic provinces: Arctic Alaska, the Amerasia Basin, and the East Greenland Rift Basins. On an oil-equivalency basis, undiscovered natural gas is estimated to be three times more abundant than oil in the Arctic. More than 70% of the undiscovered natural gas is estimated to occur in three provinces: the West Siberian Basin, the East Barents Basins, and Arctic Alaska.

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 those difficult decisions.

—USGS Director Mark Myers

The USGS Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal (CARA) is part of a project to assess the global petroleum basins using standardized and consistent methodology and protocol. This approach allows for an area’s petroleum potential to be compared to other petroleum basins in the world. The USGS worked with a number of international organizations to conduct the geologic analyses of these Arctic provinces.

Technically recoverable resources are those producible using currently available technology and industry practices. For the purposes of this study, the USGS did not consider economic factors such as the effects of permanent sea ice or oceanic water depth in its assessment of undiscovered oil and gas resources. The USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources.

Exploration for petroleum has already resulted in the discovery of more than 400 oil and gas fields north of the Arctic Circle. These fields account for approximately 40 billion barrels of oil, more than 1,100 trillion cubic feet of gas, and 8.5 billion barrels of natural gas liquids. Nevertheless, the Arctic, especially offshore, is essentially unexplored with respect to petroleum.





The crisis is over, we use the current oil reserves to help melt the pole and we then drill for the stuff underneath it!

This is such a long term view, much better than radically working on improving efficiency, reducing consumption, and actually leaving some planet for our grandchildren!


The USGS has overstated estimates in the past. The north pole has no land mass, so the drilling would have to be on platforms in very difficult climate conditions and would be incredibly expensive.


The USGS has overstated estimates in the past. The north pole has no land mass, so the drilling would have to be on platforms in very difficult climate conditions and would be incredibly expensive.


This could be enough to feed the world addiction to oil for another 460 days or 1.26 years.

The Russian Arctic may have 10 times as much or enough for another 4600 days or 12.6 years.

If the Antartic and all oceans are exploited,
we may be able to use our gas guzzlers for a few more decades, at least until 2050+, for those who can afford to drive them.


USGS Director Mark Myers says we need to "know what's out there". Well, I guess the answer is "not much":

90 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil

Simple division says this will keep the World As We Know It humming along for an extra 3 years or so.

Even if magic technology appears that improves the situation by a factor of 10, this isn't much. Especially when one remembers that the magic technology would likely work better in other areas first.


If the Antartic and all oceans are exploited,
we may be able to use our gas guzzlers for a few more decades, at least until 2050+, for those who can afford to drive them.

Works for me. Maybe by 2050 all the bugs will be worked out and we'll have efficient, effective non-petroleum vehicles ready to replace our current fleet infrastructure.


Fellow GCC zealots, don’t take your eye off the ball, it is not gas or oil and gas guzzlers that will change climate, it has, is, and will always be COAL and power plants that are the cause.


No the very simple fact is the us will do what it can to transition to industrial bio fuels and hydrogen.. basicaly anything stable or storable they will exploit big time to build up local supplies.. And when that fails to do the job and tech fails to curb car fuel use enough...

They will rip whatever the shortfall is from either the ground or the hands of the weaker nations...

Because at some point there will be 8 billion needing oil and only 2 billion getting any.. and we sure as hell will be part of that 2 billion. And no we wont be nice or kind about it.. when things go bad we will get nasty same as everyone else.


This will not postpone the Peak Oil date,
but it will help to make the decline not so steep, just a little bit.


Given the poor records of prediction of USGS in the past I am not sure than any oil company will bet a penny on USGS estimates (the real discoveries of these past 10 years have been 3 times lower than their forecast.... Seriously when you see the technical challenge of Artic oil exploration, who is going to take a chance on USGS prediction with probability of 5% ? BS



Adjust your view of the world! The US will transition to non-fossial fuel use through the Gore plan. There will be plenty of gas for others. But the Gore plan won’t stop global warming.

China will continue to add to GW.

If China's carbon usage keeps pace with its economic growth, the country's carbon dioxide emissions will reach 8 gigatons a year by 2030, which is equal to the entire world's CO2 production today. That's just the most stunning in a series of datapoints about the Chinese economy reported in a policy brief in the latest issue of the journal Science.

Coal power has been driving the stunning, seven plus percent a year growth in China's economy. It's long been said said that China was adding one new coal power plant per week to its grid. But the real news is worse: China is completing two new coal plants per week.


Why don't you send Gore to China. I am sure he loves to go there. Be sure to put him on his private plane.


One thing is for sure, this oil won't come cheap. It's a little harder to use equipment at -20 degrees than it is in Texas.


In a few years (less than 5) solar will be cheaper than coal. China will scrap it's coal plants and use the steel to build BEV's to sell to the US. They are now doing what is expedient, but they can change quickly when it benefits them, unlike SOME countries.



You still must have water where you live. If you are a Canadian, I can understand your attedute.But if you like snow, enjoy it while you can.

John Taylor

The study is a thinly disguised effort to get at ANWAR, and to buy up Canada's northern oil/gas reserves.

The exploitation of these will accelerate global warming and cause horrid pollution. They will also make a few total sleaze balls rich.

For the cost to exploit the north and hasten ruin to our planet, we could be producing clean renewable energy and gaining a sustainable economy. That would make everyone better off.


People use Gore to divert attention from the unbalanced 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year man has so quickly ramped up to dump into the atmosphere. They look in the Arctic for sources of oil to continue the dumping unobstructed. Three trillion(thousand thousand thousand thousand) tons per century(or higher?) changes things.

Again, people say plants grow bigger(they won't say quality is lower) with carbon dioxide to divert people from negative changing aspects of this rampant dumping.


While America's per capita emissions remain at 7,500 * the global average, it seems a tad rich to blame China every time a whipping boy is called for.
This behaviour is a self fulfilling nationalistic propaganda aimed to bolster support for a failing system.
When its not the Chinese responsible for the state of the world, its the Middle Eastern nations, or the Cubans, Mexicans, the Vietnamese, communists Blacks, Hispanics and the rest of those savages.
Have I forgotten anyone?
Oh yeah Environmentalist greens. Help I'm running out of people to blame!
Does this mean I'll have to do something myself?

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ANWR.

Stephen Boulet

This is so expensive that is is not really exploitable. At prices for oil high enough to make drilling in the Arctic worthwhile, renewables would far undercut oil on price.



Whatever happens, don't make me listen to the CO2 skeptics. That would mean doing some real science and I'd rather just blame CO2 than face up to serious pollution worldwide from coal fired power plants.

As for China, they've screwed themselves so bad they had to censor last year's WB / World Health Report on the cost of their economic miracle. Why confront your failings when you can censor them away?




If USA's per capita GHG emissions are 7500x the world average, Australians and Canadians (the other two champions) must be close to 8000x?


Does the selling price for oil reflets the real production cost? Even oil from tar sands cost less than $40/barrel to produce. Oil from Iran, Saudi Arabia etc cost a lot less, i.e around $5/barrel to produce but sold for almost $150/barrrel two weeks ago.

Arctic oil may not cost more than $50/barrel(max-average) and somebody could make a fortune (about 2000 billion dollars) @ $100/barrel. With the north pole free of ice and relative shallow waters, drilling and transport may be much cheaper than expected.

John Taylor


A Freudian slip? We seem to always be fighting for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to protect it from Oil interests that would destroy it for profit.


More on Ckina.

Arnold, yes it is true that Chinese per capita emissions remain one-quarter of our own here in the US. But, if the Chinese economy steps into our carbon footprint, all other greenhouse gas reduction efforts will be for naught.

The Chinese government knows that climate change will impact their country as much, if not more, than many others. That would leave them with a structural competitive disadvantage, which the Chinese have generally avoided.

Just take a look at the Chinese water situation. Half of the country's land is arid or semi-arid, and like the American West, vulnerable to drying out in the early stages of climate change. Climate change linked drying could reduce China's agricultural output by 5 to 10 percent by 2030, which would be a disaster in a country that has 20 percent of the world's population and only 7 percent of its arable land.

Chinese government officials know they have an environmental disaster unfolding within their country. If the US takes positive steps towards reducing our own emissions and helping the Chinese with theirs, I think we will find a willing partner.

If the countries that have the majority of the coal reserves: USA, Canada, Australia, India, South Africa, Russia, form a coal cartel on the OPEC modal, then some gentle persuasion can be suggested about the environment to China.


These numbers are huge, but suspect. If we pursue drilling in the arctic (including the Arctic National Badlands) and offshore quickly, the speculators will probably drive oil prices down. Now. This much oil will take us into the clean energy era – because guess what, we aren’t there now and won’t be for 10 more years.
This might be true, but at what cost. We will be a blamed for global warming.
Far better we let the Russians do the drilling and polluting and be criticized. Of course we will be choking even more and paying BIG money to them for oil just when we need money to fund the change to wind/solar/nuclear/geothermal /high-tech hybrid cars etc. But we will be pure if the world is polluted by the Russians and Chinese instead of us. Live with guilt when we can die futilely for the cause? No way. So, where do we get the energy while the green alternatives are being developed? No problem. We can keep buying our oil from Russia and the mid east, our power generation machinery from China and our cars from the orient. Money to buy these things? Just save money by NOT drilling in the Arctic and offshore? Ha Ha Ha – Just kidding, that’s like saving money by not looking for a job. Besides we won’t spend our money anyway, big oil will – stick it to the man.
How much oil is there in the arctic? I mean, compared to how much we are saving with all those Prius’ out there, including all we will have on the road by 2015?
Wow, forget Prius. Drill. And spend the billions we save with the new oil to fund renewable energy and cost effective PHEVs and EVs and battery and PVC development. Spend what billions ? The 700 billion $/yr we now spend on imported oil.
But those Arctic numbers are inaccurate!
Yes, a bit like the predictions for AGW are inaccurate.
But we should still listen to Al Gore – look what he’s done, (no, I mean besides putting Dubya in the white house). Didn’t he invent the hybrid? With 3% of new car sales and 0.1% on the road.

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