Introduction to arctic oil.
Centered on North Pole, Arctic Ocean covers 14 million km².
Glacial Arctic Ocean has been identified as high in hydrocarbons (crude oil and natural gas) since decades. Some are already exploited over there, most famous being Alaska. In 2007, a narrow coastline only is exploited, but the future ice bank melt gives new ambitions. Whilst intimidation operations have already started, we have to get interested in estimating hydrocarbons volumes recoverable in this area and in identifying countries which will benefit from them.
- The big island of New-Zemble in the East has already shown its potential, in particular in gas (Snohvit, Shtokman). A part of this zone is the object of a border dispute between Russia and Norway ; its settlement is still in process in 2011.
- Far East, we have Kara Sea, at the East of New-Zemble. It offers Russians a considerable potential ; already being exploited.
- Always under Russian control, Laptev Sea and Eastern Siberia Sea, North Siberia.
- North Bering Detroit, Tchouktches Sea is shared between Russia and the United States.
- Beaufort Sea, North Alaska, United States sovereignty, is the zone exploited since ever ; Nunavut islands are also exploited.
- Greenland coasts (Danish sovereignty) and Baffin Sea belong to unknowns.
- Note as well a few small islands such as Jan Mayen and Bear Island which make geopolitics of this region still a bit more complicated.
- A last territory without identified country in charge : the proximity of the pole, with Makarov, Amundsen and Nansen basins ; this zone, characterized by its central position and its big water depth is already the object of claims from Russia, Canada and Norway.
In any way, the different observers agree on the fact that the majority of these reserves (69 %) belongs to Russia.
Furthest wells are located 600 kilometers away from coasts. They are 10-1000 meters deep, 150 meters on the average, what is largely accessible to modern equipments.
Furthermore, this region of the world has always presented a strategic interest: with ice bank melt, crossing North-West to North-East will allow to save time, fuel, and tolls at Panama and Suez canals, while authorizing gauge overrun Panamax and Suezmax. The Arctic will become a considerable commercial crossing point.
USGS undertook a multiannual research program on Arctic oil resources, entitled Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal (CARA). In a publication dated from July 2008, USGS estimates the not-discovered reserves at 90 billion barrels for crude oil (as well as 1 669 billion barrels of natural gas and 44 billion barrels of liquid natural gas).
We estimate that the production peak might be 3 Mbep/d for liquids (and 5 Mbep/d for gas in about twenty years).
84 % these not-discovered reserves should be offshore.