Print 103 comment(s) - last by MrPoletski.. on Jun 6 at 1:24 PM

A melting Arctic could be good news for mankind, according to a new study.  (Source: SciAddict)

An earlier map of the USGS estimates of untapped Arctic gas reserves. Brighter areas indicate more gas.  (Source: USGS)

A similar map shows oil reserves, here the darker regions represent regions more rich in probable oil deposits.  (Source: USGS)
New study shows yet another potential benefit of a warmer planet

A new study adds to growing evidence that the current warming cycle may hold potential benefits to mankind.  According to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey, earlier estimates which placed untapped Arctic oil reserves at as much as 90 billion barrels actually fell short -- the Arctic may in fact hold as many as 160 billion barrels of oil.  The new discovery amounts to over 35 years in US foreign oil imports or 5 years’ worth of global oil consumption.   Canada, Greenland/Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States, all of which border the Arctic Circle are racing to compete for the untapped resource.

The oil reserves could fetch a price of $10.6 trillion dollars at current oil prices.  Most of the reserves are in shallow waters -- less than 500 meters (about 1/3rd of a mile) -- making extraction relatively easy.  Geologist Donald Gautier comments, "It would not mean that there would be any kind of a significant shift in global oil balance.  But this is especially significant for the Arctic nations."

Oil companies are already racing to pinpoint deposits and begin to tap this bountiful resource.  Exxon Mobil and several others have staked claims and began drilling in the Mackenzie Delta, the Barents Sea, the Sverdrup Basin, and offshore Alaska.   According to Alan Jeffers, a spokesperson for Exxon Mobil, "It makes sense to diversify sources of oil and gas, given that the U.S. is one of the biggest consumers of oil and gas."

As rich as the Arctic may be in oil, it may hold even more natural gas.  While the geologists estimate 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil lies in the region, they also estimate that the region holds 30 percent of the planet's undiscovered natural gas reserves.  Natural gas harvested in the region could be used for a variety of purposes including home heating and power generation.

The discoveries are part of an ongoing USGS study CARA -- Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal.  The study is the first of its kind as researchers are using advanced geological analysis and probability modeling to estimate the reserves held in the Arctic shelves.  While probabilistic models come with a degree of uncertainty, this multidiscipline approach is yielding exciting results and has already led to the discovery of several major deposits.

Despite the potential gains to economic and national security gains that could come from tapping this resource, environmentalists are seeking to block oil companies from drilling in the region, complaining it will release arsenic, mercury and lead into the ocean waters.  All of these compounds naturally occur in low quantities in sea water.  Activist Lisa Speer, Director of the International Oceans Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a interview adds, "We need uniform, mandatory standards governing offshore oil and gas activity in the Arctic because activity in one country has the potential to affect the environment of the Arctic far beyond the country of origin."

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Oxygen Question
By CurtOien on 6/1/2009 7:33:07 AM , Rating: 0
If our oxygen was made by plants and we burn all of our hydrocarbons, will we use up our oxygen?

RE: Oxygen Question
By ApfDaMan on 6/1/2009 7:39:27 AM , Rating: 1
I think we have an abundance of oxygen... enough to avoid these circumstances for longer than a few generations will have to worry about.


RE: Oxygen Question
By mandrews on 6/1/2009 8:57:17 AM , Rating: 2

If our oxygen was made by plants and we burn all of our hydrocarbons, will we use up our oxygen?

There's hardly a shortage of plants in the world to produce more oxygen. For all the environmentalist tripe about deforestation, the Earth holds much more abundant and diverse plant life now than in numerous past eras in its history.

RE: Oxygen Question
By CurtOien on 6/1/2009 12:12:23 PM , Rating: 2
I know that plants will produce more oxygen. But, as they decompose or burn they will use it up again. From what little I know, the oxygen that is available to us was produced by plants that have not decomposed or burned yet and have been locked up in things like lumber, coal and oil. We can't extract and burn everything but can we ever burn enough to make a difference?

RE: Oxygen Question
By johnsonx on 6/1/2009 9:54:36 PM , Rating: 2
burning fuel combines oxygen with carbon to produce carbon dioxide. plants produce oxygen by cracking carbon dioxide. lather, rinse, repeat

RE: Oxygen Question
By Regs on 6/1/2009 9:31:26 AM , Rating: 5
If photosynthesis stops....we'd die a whole lot sooner than waiting for the oxygen to deplete.

RE: Oxygen Question
By SpaceJumper on 6/1/09, Rating: 0
RE: Oxygen Question
By sprockkets on 6/1/2009 6:37:26 PM , Rating: 2
A lot of oxygen is made by organisms in our oceans as well.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
Related Articles

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki