What is Arctic Oil?
Arctic Oil is usually defined as oil reserves found in Arctic-like conditions, characterized by ice, permafrost, and extreme temperatures. Arctic Oil can be found both on and offshore but the vast majority (an estimated 84%) is offshore, in the Arctic’s shallow shelf seas.1
Oil produced in this region is normally considered unconventional because of the production techniques that must be employed to overcome the extreme environmental conditions2. However, the produced oil has mostly conventional properties. Oil in this region is produced using mobile drilling rigs, similar to those used in offshore oil production. These rigs are reinforced for safety and have specially shaped legs to stand up against ice floes.3
The Arctic is estimated to be home to 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves, meaning that the region may contain as many as 90 billion barrels of oil3. The main countries involved in Arctic resource production are Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States. More than two-thirds of the current producing fields are located in Western Siberia, Russia45
With increased global temperatures causing melting of the glaciers and improved technologies, many companies are looking to further their production efforts in this region. It is believed that an estimated $100 billion could be invested in the Arctic over the next decade6
The Arctic is one of the world’s most fragile biological environments on the planet and therefore natural resource production in this area is met with concern and criticism.
Drilling for oil in the Arctic has unique challenges and difficulties. In certain areas of the Arctic, drilling can cause toxins, such as arsenic, mercury, and lead, to be released into ocean waters and threaten marine animals in surrounding areas. There is also an increased risk of oil spills due to factors such as a lack of natural light, extreme cold, moving ice floes, high wind and low visibility. The remoteness of drilling locations and difficulty navigating the harsh environmental conditions make spill response operations extremely difficult, if not impossible.