Arctic Oil and Gas Development

The Impacts of the Gulf Oil Spill Series
  • Tuesday, Jul 12, 2011

  • The Arctic has huge oil and gas reserves—90 billion barrels of oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to U.S. Geological Survey estimates. The CSIS Energy and National Security Program hosted a day-long conference to examine the state of resource development and the geopolitical and environmental complexities that come with the exploitation of Arctic energy resources, featuring keynotes from Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes, and U.S Arctic Research Commission Chair Frances Ulmer.

    Senator Murkowski emphasized the resource potential in Alaska and the dearth of policies promoting its development. According to Murkowski, U.S. policies must promote the twin goals of protection and production by creating predictable and proper oversight that allows a clear path for responsible development. However, strict environmental regulation is vital because a major accident like the 2010 Macondo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico would likely end the development of Alaska’s resources.

    Secretary Hayes announced a high-level working group on Alaska oil and gas development. As the chair, Secretary Hayes will work with an interagency team to ensure coordination, information sharing, and timely response to permitting requests. He stressed the Interior Department’s review of Shell’s exploratory drilling plans in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas as a step toward the Obama administration’s goal of increasing safe and responsible oil and gas production.

    Ulmer addressed the difficulty of defining “responsible development” of Arctic resources. How stakeholders choose to define it will influence the discussion, she said. Ulmer lauded the regulatory changes following the Macondo oil spill, but urged Congress to adopt a goal-oriented regulatory approach that invests more responsibility with operators while providing the flexibility to innovate and align business-operating procedures with effective risk management.

    The CSIS Energy and National Security Program hosted the final session in its Impacts of the Gulf Oil Spill Series, which evaluated the development of Arctic oil and gas resources.

    The oil and gas resources of the Arctic region represent one of the most promising, largely untapped hydrocarbon resources in the world.  A 2008 U.S. Geological Survey study estimated the recoverable oil resources of the Arctic region at 90 billion barrels, about 13 percent of the world’s remaining oil resources and the gas resource at 1,670 trillion cubic feet, about 30 percent of the world’s remaining gas resource.  These oil and gas resources are located throughout the Arctic region and each of the five Arctic nations has prospective areas.  However, the development of these oil and gas resources faces a number of daunting issues.

    The conference examined several key issue areas including: the state of play in development plans and activities in each of the Arctic countries, oil spill risks, and the possibilities for international cooperation to reduce the risk of major accidents and contain accidents that do occur.

    Panel Discussions covered:
    Development and Infrastructure Options in Alaska's Arctic and Market Challenges
    International Arctic Resource Developments and Opportunities
    Environmental Challenges for Arctic Development

    Speakers include:
    Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senior Republican Member, U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
    David J. Hayes, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior
    Frances Ulmer, Chair, U.S. Arctic Research Commission

    A detailed agenda is available on the righthand side of the page.

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