Northern Arctic oil resources look ‘puny,’ feds say

By Heather Richards | 05/30/2024 06:41 AM EDT

A new U.S. Geological Survey estimate of offshore oil and gas resources may be unlikely to drive drilling interest.

Sea ice in the Chukchi Sea.

Sea ice in the Chukchi Sea. Jannelle Trowbridge/U.S. Geological Survey

Drillers could tap an estimated 1.8 billion barrels of crude oil from an area deep in the Arctic Ocean, but that’s not likely, according to a U.S. Geological Survey assessment released Wednesday.

The Northern Chukchi Basin lies 150 miles north of Alaska’s coastline, straddling the exclusive economic zones of the U.S. and Russia, as well as waters in the Arctic Circle beyond either country’s domain. In addition to its undiscovered oil resources, the basin could hold roughly 120 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to USGS.

Relative to the size of the area, the basin’s oil and gas resources are likely not enough to stoke industry interest or turn policymakers’ heads in Washington, said David Houseknecht, a senior research geologist at USGS and one of the authors of the assessment.


“There are estimates of undiscovered resources, both onshore and offshore, closer to Alaska that makes this look puny,” he said.