Petroleum Exploration in the Arctic

Petroleum exploration in the Arctic has increased in the last few years mostly due to the increase in oil prices and continued demand across the world for this resource. Several major companies have taken on new or extended projects in spite of a higher Petroleum Profits Tax as levied by the State of Alaska. Companies like Shell, Alaska Petroleum, Anadarko Petroleum and continue to play major roles in drilling, testing, and hopefully tapping more oil. Exploration is mostly concentrated near the ANWR border east of Prudhoe Bay, in the southern area of the Brooks Range foothills, and west of the NPRA (National Petroleum Reserve).

Alaska Petroleum Exploration

Petroleum exploration in the Arctic has long been a conflicting issue for the world from a political standpoint as well as an ecological one. Many people worry that continued exploration is going to be at the cost of losing natural areas and wildlife habitats that are crucial to the chain of life. Conversely, oil is still a necessary and highly sought after resource. Oil exploration is at an all time high and more people are employed as a result. Searching for oil costs a great deal of money and as many have recently observed in the BP leak in the Gulf, clean up can also be very expensive and take its toll on the surrounding environment and wildlife, not to mention human impact.

Petroleum exploration in the Arctic is a political hot button and likely will be for some time. President Obama in recent months announced his desire that OCS (outer continental shelf) oil and gas exploration leasing would be allowed in the Chuck-chi Sea. Other leases on the Beaufort and Chuck-chi Seas would be discontinued. The President and Congress will still have to decide how the royalties of tax gains will be shared with the Federal Government and individual states like Alaska. The amount of oil expected to be gained from Alaskan OCS is nearly 30 billion barrels of oil.

One of the controversial aspects to petroleum exploration in the Arctic has been how ANWR would be affected. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, situated on Alaska’s northern area between Prudhoe Bay and the Canadian Border divided a lot of people as to whether oil exploration should take place there. Alaskans seem to support limited exploration and the state legislature continues to pass resolutions supporting oil exploration. Some are still concerned that exploring for oil at all in the ANWR area could damage the ecosystem and wildlife.