The Arctic natural resource reserves, especially oil and gas, have been much talked about in the media lately and many countries have started to turn their eyes to the Arctic in hope for a future resources under ever increasing energy demand.
Historically there have been three main regions in the Arctic linked to oil exploitation: the Beaufort Sea coast (North Slope of Alaska and the Mackenzie Delta of Canada), the Canadian north-eastern Arctic (Nunavut), and northwest Russia (Barents Sea and West-Siberia).
According to the newest predictions, however, the Arctic is expected to host around 22% of the world's remaining undiscovered oil and gas reserves, according to a 2008 assessment from the US Geological Survey. According to this assessment this would equal an estimated total oil and natural gas resource of 412 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
Around 78% of the Arctic resources are expected to be natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGL). The West Siberian Basin and East Barents Basin are estimated to be key areas, holding 47% of the total undiscovered resources. 94 percent of the resources within these areas are expected to be natural gas and NGL.
Despite expected large reserves, the future of Arctic oil development is depending on technical, political and environmental challenges. Technical challenges are in general the harsh Arctic conditions that put special demands on men and material. Transport systems such as pipelines need to be constructed and technical challenges overcome as climate change puts new requirements towards materials and construction technologies.
Last but not least there is the challenge of the vulnerable Arctic environment and the indigenous people of the circumpolar North that puts high demands to any oil or gas related project in the region. Increased transport, e.g. by tankers will also require new capabilities to Search and Rescue capabilities as well as oil spill prevention. High costs due to high environmental protection demands could delay or even halt a further development of Arctic oil, especially when cost / benefit calculations compare it with other regions.