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The rapid disappearance of the Arctic sea ice in recent years and a record melt in 2007 due to global warming has led to a mad rush among countries bordering the region to claim petroleum deposits beneath the ocean floor
At stake is
About 22 per cent of the world's untapped petroleum deposits
90 billion barrels of oil (13 per cent of untapped oil deposits)
1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (30 per cent)
44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids (20 per cent)
About 84 per cent of the resources are expected to occur offshore
The petroleum deposits are spread across 25 geologically defined areas (geological provinces) in the Arctic
Over 50 per cent of the untapped oil occurs in just three geological provinces Arctic Alaska, Amerasia Basin and the East Greenland Rift Basins
Over 70 per cent of the untapped natural gas deposits are in three geological provinces West Siberian Basin, East Barents Basin and Arctic Alaska
Untapped natural gas is estimated to be three times more abundant than oil
In July 2008 Russia sent warships to patrol the Arctic waters. On August 2, 2007, it sent an expedition to plant a Russian flag on the seabed under the North Pole
On August 10, 2007, Canada announced it would build a military centre, a deep-water port and sent ships to patrol its sovereignty over the Northwest Passage
On August 12, 2007, Danish researchers set out on a month-long voyage to collect geological data
On August 17, 2007, us coast guard vessel, Cutter Healy, set sail to map the seafloor on the northern Chukchi Cap in the Arctic. Two earlier expeditions happened in 2003 and 2004
Canada, Denmark and Russia claim the Lomonosov Ridge--an underwater mountain range--as a natural extension to their continental shelves
Norway has a border dispute in the Barents Sea with Russia
Major petroleum deposits beneath
Arctic’s ocean floor
|Geological province||Oil (MMBO)||Natural gas (BCFG)||Natural gas liquid (MMBNGL)|
|West Siberian Basin||3,659.88||651,498.56||20,328.69|
|East Barents Basin||7,406.49||317,557.97||1,422.28|
|East Greenland Rift Basins||8,902.13||86,180.06||8,121.57|
|MMBO million barrels of oil; BCFG billion cubic feet of natural gas; MMBNGL million barrels of natural gas liquids|
The us disputes Canada's claims over the Northwest Passage
Rule of thumb
The countries have to submit their claims under the un Convention on the Law of the Sea--an international agreement that governs the use of the oceans and their resources (see 'Arctic rush', Down To Earth, September 30, 2007). While Russia and Norway have already submitted their claims, the us has refused to ratify citing concerns of national sovereign rights over the 200 nautical miles offshore. Canada and Denmark are expected to submit their claims soon.
Source Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal 2008 by US Geological Survey and media reports