Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 16:18 UK

Arctic 'has 90bn barrels of oil'

Oil drill
Oil prices are tipped to rise

The Arctic is estimated to hold 90bn barrels of untapped oil, according to figures from the US Geological Survey (USGS).

The USGS says the area has three times as much untapped natural gas as oil.

Drilling plans in the Arctic have been controversial, with environment groups worried about the effect on wildlife.

While oil prices have been falling in recent days to around $125 a barrel, many analysts expect oil prices to remain high, and even to rise again.

The figures from the USGS are said to be the first estimate of the energy available north of the Arctic circle.

According to the survey, the Arctic holds about 13% of the world's undiscovered oil, 30% of the undiscovered natural gas, and 20% of the undiscovered natural gas liquids.

"Before we can make decisions about our future use of oil and gas and related decisions about protecting endangered species, native communities and the health of our planet, we need to know what's out there," said USGS director Mark Myers.

US President George W Bush has already urged Congress to end a ban on drilling for oil in US coastal waters, to make the US less reliant on imports.

Exploration companies believe the recent rapid ice melt in the Arctic may make it easier to get reserves out of the region.

The oil and gas is said to be recoverable using current technology, but the USGS said it "did not consider economic factors such as the effects of permanent sea ice or oceanic water depth in its assessment of undiscovered oil and gas resources".

Map of Arctic
All coastal states are entitled to claim an exclusive economic zone, extending up to 200 nautical miles from their coastline.
Beyond 200 nautical miles, states can claim rights over continental shelf so long as they can provide scientific proof to the UN that it belongs to them.
Russia and Norway have both submitted claims to the UN.
Where a maritime boundary has yet to be agreed, a line equidistant between the two countries is shown.

An earlier version of this story erroneously said the Arctic's estimated oil reserves were equal to Russia's.

Oil price drop in volatile market
19 Jul 08 |  Business
Bush calls for offshore drilling
18 Jun 08 |  Americas

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