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USGS CARA Concludes 13% of World’s Undiscovered Oil, 30% of Undiscovered Gas in the Arctic

Caraoil
Map of the assessment units (AUs) of the CARA is color-coded for mean estimated undiscovered oil. Only areas north of the Arctic Circle are included in the estimates. Black lines indicate AU boundaries. Source: USGS CARA. Click to enlarge.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) has completed a geologically-based assessment of the oil and gas resource potential of the Arctic, the Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal (CARA). (Earlier post.) The researchers in the effort concluded that about 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30% of the world’s undiscovered gas may be found there, mostly offshore under less than 500 meters of water. A paper on the work was published in the 29 May issue of the journal Science.

Undiscovered natural gas is three times more abundant than oil in the Arctic and is largely concentrated in Russia, the researchers concluded. Oil resources, although important to the interests of Arctic countries, are probably not sufficient to substantially shift the current geographic pattern of world oil production, they said.

The Arctic Circle encompasses 6% of Earth’s surface. One-third of that area is above sea level, one-third is in continental shelves beneath less than 500 m of water, and the final third is deep ocean basins historically covered by sea ice.

Many onshore areas have already been explored; by 2007, more than 400 oil and gas fields, containing 40 billion barrels of oil (BBO), 1,136 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas, and 8 billion barrels of natural gas liquids had been developed north of the Arctic Circle, mostly in the West Siberian Basin of Russia and on the North Slope of Alaska.

Deep oceanic basins have relatively low petroleum potential, but the Arctic continental shelves constitute one of the world’s largest remaining prospective areas. Until now, remoteness and technical difficulty, coupled with abundant low-cost petroleum, have ensured that little exploration occurred offshore. Even where offshore wells have been drilled, in the Mackenzie Delta, the Barents Sea, the Sverdrup Basin, and offshore Alaska, most resulting discoveries remain undeveloped.

—Gautier et al.
Caragas
Map showing the AUs of the CARA color-coded for mean estimated undiscovered gas. Source: USGS CARA. Click to enlarge.

The CARA only considered accumulations with recoverable hydrocarbon volumes larger than 50 million barrels of oil or 300 billion cubic feet of gas (50 million barrels of oil equivalent, 50 MMBOE). The project excluded unconventional resources such as coal bed methane, gas hydrates, oil shales, and heavy oil and tar sands. The project did not consider technological and economic risks; resources were assumed to be recoverable even in the presence of sea ice or oceanic water depths.

A new map delineating the Arctic sedimentary successions by age, thickness, and structural and tectonic setting provided the basis for defining assessment units (AUs), which are mappable volumes of sedimentary rocks that share similar geological properties. The CARA defined 69 AUs, each containing more than 3 km of sedimentary strata—the minimum thickness necessary to bury petroleum source rocks sufficiently to generate significant petroleum. The CARA team analyzed each Arctic AU to determine the geologic properties most likely to control the sizes and numbers of undiscovered petroleum accumulations.

On an energy-equivalent basis, we estimate that the Arctic contains more than three times as much undiscovered gas as oil. The estimated largest undiscovered gas accumulation is almost eight times the estimated size of the largest undiscovered oil accumulation (22.5 BBOE versus 2.9 BBO) and therefore more likely to be developed. The aggregated results suggest there is a high probability (>95% chance) that more than 770 TCF of gas occurs north of the Arctic Circle, a one in two chance (50%) that more than 1547 TCF may be found, and a 1 in 20 chance (5%) that as much as 2990 TCF could be added to proved reserves from new discoveries. 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.

—Gautier et al.
Caraoil2
Estimated undiscovered oil resources, in billion barrels of oil, north of the Arctic Circle in the AUs. Vertical lines indicate the range of estimated oil resources from a 5% probability to a 95% probability. Horizontal lines correspond to mean estimated oil volumes. Source: USGS CARA Click to enlarge.

Overall, the CARA team concluded that the Arctic region contains 22.8 billion barrels of oil with 95% probability, 275 billion barrels of oil with 5% probability, and 95.5 billion barrels of oil with mean probability.

The CARA team concluded that the largest total concentration of petroleum was in the Alaskan Platform (AU code AA1), with a 95% probability of 13.866 billion barrels, a 5% probability of 47.426 billion barrels, and a mean probability of 27.851 billion barrels of oil. The largest single concentration was estimated to be 4.288 billion barrels (mean) in the North Barents basin (EBB3).

Resources

  • Donald L. Gautier et al. (2009) Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas in the Arctic. Science Vol. 324. no. 5931, pp. 1175 - 1179 doi: 10.1126/science.1169467

Comments

SJC

"22.8 billion barrels of oil with 95% probability"

That might last the U.S. about 3 years by the time it is developed and cost 100s of billions of dollars to produce. I would rather leave it there and use renewable energy.

ai_vin

It's almost enough to make you think this was EXXON's master plan all along; burn all the oil south of the arctic circle to cause global warming so that the ice melts and they can get all the oil north of the arctic circle. (Maybe I should just start wearing tinfoil hats. ;^)

At the very least you have to figure they've been delaying the move to renewables because they KNEW they'd get access to more oil with the melting ice and they didn't want us to not need it when they did.

SJC

I would say that they took the easy oil first and counted on no one doing much to find a substitute for their product any time soon. Oil is a trillion dollar industry, so who gets into power is really important to them. The PNGV program became the Freedom Car based on hydrogen, because that was decades away. The PNGV hybrid cars would have actually reduced the use of gasoline in the near future.

ToppaTom

How does Exxon delay the move to renewables?

Do they chop down windmills at night?

One company NOT making solar cells is not delaying them.

"Take the easy oil first?" They would have to be very stupid NOT to.

Autos based on the PNGV and EV1 programs were decades away.

People did not want these cars, for good reason at the time.

Now that we desperately need them - they almost, ALMOST sell in significant numbers - at least the Prius almost does, I cringe when I think how the new EV1, the Volt, will fare.

I dislike heavy government support, but I really hope some of this easy money goes to support Volt sales.

Matthew

Clearly, it should be a top national priority to remove these deadly hydrocarbons from the Arctic environment, and ship them south for disposal.

Alex Kovnat

If it is true that we have to greatly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, then I don't see all that oil being of much use to us. It would be better if we didn't drill for it, as cheap oil will only disincentivize us from driving smaller cars, driving a little slower, and of course modifying our life styles so we don't have to drive as much.

ToppaTom

Expensive oil makes our enemies rich. What we need is cheap oil and high oil taxes.
THAT is what will keep our money here, incentivize us to drive smaller cars, drive a little slower, and modify our life styles so we don't have to drive as much.
We need less malice and reaction and more positive action.
More guts to raise gas taxes.

ai_vin

"How does Exxon delay the move to renewables?"
"What we need is cheap oil and high oil taxes."

That's how. The oil companies lobby for, and got, lower taxes and tax credits. This kept the pump prices lower.
They also funded a disinformation campaign against the science of global warming so people would not see the urgent need.

ai_vin

"Autos based on the PNGV and EV1 programs were decades away. People did not want these cars, for good reason at the time."

Huh? The PNGV program had run its course and each of the big 3 had prototypes. They were just years away from production while the freedom car wasn't even on the drawingboard.

The EV1 was actually in the showrooms and on the highways. GM had to threaten legal action against their leaseholders(there could only be leaseholders because GM wouldn't even sell the cars) to get the EV1 off the road.

SJC

Then there is the story of Chevron/Texaco and the large format NiMH battery used in the EV1 and RAV4EV. If you want to discus how the oil industry might keep us from renewable energy transportation, there is a good topic.

ToppaTom

Who is gullible enough to believe that "Lobby for" "fund a disinformation campaign against" has the power to control American lives?

Well, except for those who believe American Idol is relevant.

The test of time has shown that cars represented by the PNGV program, the freedom car and the EV1 were not yet viable. If they were viable where are they? It has been 10 years.

Or do you really believe that a few percent of all companies "NOT making EVs" can keep them out of the market?

The paranoia and fantasy that “Chevron/Texaco and the large format NiMH patents are keeping affordable batteries from saving the world" has not yet really caught on outside the gullible fringe.


SJC

The PNGV vehicles are alive and well in the Prius, Civic hybrid and new Insight. The Japanese did them and not the U.S. car makers. They DID sell, Prius has sold more than 1 million since 1999. The Japanese observed the PNGV program and produced hybrids, this has been well documented.

It is true that the EV1 and RAV4EV used large format NiMH batteries, but now they are not available. RAV4EV owners try to get replacements for those batteries and can not. These are facts that have been documented. The motive for the occurrence of these facts I will leave to others, but you can not deny that they happened...or maybe some people can.

ToppaTom

After 10 years of being a side note, hybrid/EVs will soon come alive - as their time approaches.
When sales exceed 5% I will be encouraged – a little. I believe that the breakthroughs that we hear about every day will soon make them mainstream – like 60% of sales. 60%, not 6%.
Then they will begin to supplant the 125 million plus cars on the road.

Thanks a lot for setting the NiMH battery conspiracy nuts on me.

Maybe I’ll just wait and let Li-ion batteries show that size is, in the case of battery cells, irrelevant.

ai_vin

"Who is gullible enough to believe that "Lobby for" "fund a disinformation campaign against" has the power to control American lives?"

You don't really want an answer to that, do you? After 8 years of BUSH?

ai_vin

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time."
attributed to Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of US (1809 - 1865) - [Actually Lincoln didn't say this. Although it is widely attributed to him it is originally from the boss of a circus named Barum, who was Lincoln's friend.]


"You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on."
George W. Bush quotes (American 43rd US President from 2001 to 2009. b.1946)



ai_vin

"It is wise to remember that you are one of those who can be fooled some of the time." Laurence J. Peter

HarveyD

ai_vin:

It is fair to say that most if not all can be fooled some of the time... GWB almost did it.

Mark_BC
The paranoia and fantasy that “Chevron/Texaco and the large format NiMH patents are keeping affordable batteries from saving the world" has not yet really caught on outside the gullible fringe.

Can you then explain why no electric vehicle manufacturer uses NiMH batteries, despite the fact that the Toyota Rav-4 EV and the EV-1 successfully demonstrated the technology? Instead they now use exclusively Lithium ion batteries which are 4 times as expensive. It makes no logical sense. Why would electric car manufacturers use a battery that's 4 times as expensive as the NiMH, when the feasibility of the NiMH battery was demonstrated over 10 years ago? I honestly don't know why you try to deny the impact of this patent, the links are everywhere if you look for them. It successfully stalled the emergence of the electric car by 10 years.

The test of time has shown that cars represented by the PNGV program, the freedom car and the EV1 were not yet viable. If they were viable where are they? It has been 10 years.

The EV-1 was not viable because its battery patent was quickly gobbled up by Chevron / Texaco through the guise of Ovonics / Cobasys. If you lose the legal right to use the power horse of your vehicle, then that will quickly make it non-viable!

They then prevented everyone from using these batteries in automotive applications, except for the parallel drive hybrids like the Prius. The Prius is overly complicated, expensive, and quite fuel inefficient compared with a serial plugin hybrid, and still gets all its energy from gasoline, so it is barely a threat to Chevron's oil sales. I presume that Ovonics allows this limited application use of its NiMH battery because if they were to completely prevent the use of these batteries in all automotive applications I'm sure they could be sued for patent manipulation.

This will soon come to an end, however. As the GM Volt, the electric smart car, electric Tesla-Daimler models, and the Think cars all are showing, the electric car is here to stay. The great part is that we will use Lithium ion batteries for the next few years in order to bring these vehicles out on the market, and then in 2014 when Chevron's patent expires, we'll have everything in place and it will be a relatively simple matter to just switch over to NiMH batteries and we'll be off to the races, and the vehicles will be even cheaper. We don't have enough Lithium to make enough electric cars for the whole world anyways, but by the time reserves run down NiMH will have once again re-entered the scene. And there's absolutely nothing the oil companies can do about it now.

SJC

Amen Mark, I am waiting for that day :-))

danm

EV's do appear almost ready to take the stage. And the price of gas will be soon give them the final push they need.
Even without any sign of economic recovery, gas prices are slowly rising.
People will drive EV's because they won't be able to afford gas. Simple as that.

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