May 29, 2009

Oil, gas lies north of Arctic Circle

Russia stands to benefit greatly from untapped oil and gas reserves north of the Arctic Circle, U.S. geologists said.

Thirty percent of the world's untapped gas and 12 percent of its undiscovered oil lies in that region, U.S. Geological Survey researchers said in a paper published Thursday in Science magazine.

While Russia has the largest territory in that region, the Chuckchi Sea off northern Alaska is rich in gas and oil but the terrain is fragile, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

The USGS's report is the first detailed assessment by geologists of natural resources in the region and comes at a time when the shrinking icecap makes exploration more feasible, the Times reported.

Energy companies are eager to drill in the north, while conservationists warn that plunging drill rods into the terrain risks causing a catastrophic oil spill in one of the planet's most fragile environments.