London, May 29 (ANI): A detailed geological survey has revealed that around 30 percent of the world's yet-to-be discovered gas resources and 13 percent of its undiscovered oil reserves may lie north of the Arctic Circle.
The estimates, announced by the US Geological Survey (USGS) are based purely on geological data, and take no account of whether the oil and gas stores are technically recoverable or how much it would cost to exploit them.
Also, they do not address the environmental and cultural damage that might be inflicted by attempting to drill for oil or gas.
Nonetheless, claims Donald Gautier, who led the research, "They give us insight into future petroleum resources, political relations, and places that environmental conflicts may occur."
In total, the USGS estimates that the Arctic's undiscovered gas reserves range between 770 and 2990 trillion cubic feet (22-86 trillion cubic metres) - the mean value amounting to 30 percent of global undiscovered natural gas.
Much of it is concentrated in Russian territory.
"The South Kara Sea, Russia, is probably the richest basin in the Arctic, in terms of undiscovered resources," said Gautier.
Alaska holds the biggest concentration of undiscovered oil, which in total may range from 22 to around 256 billion barrels, with a mean of 90 billion.
Global demand for oil is about 30 billion barrels a year.
Though of great commercial value, the Arctic's extra contribution is unlikely to shift the Middle East's control of global oil supplies, Gautier adds.
"The world's future energy supply will not be determined by Arctic oil," said Gautier. "But, the future economic prosperity of the Arctic nations will be greatly affected by oil resources," he added.
The bulk of the USGS-estimated resources are located offshore on continental shelves, and their national ownership is not in question.
The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) permits states an economic zone out to 200 nautical miles from their coastline.
But, a few of the surveyed areas lie in contested waters.
As polar ice retreats, making the Arctic more accessible for resource exploration, several countries have submitted claims to UNCLOS for extraction rights in uncharted Arctic sea beds beyond state economic zones. (ANI)