When Royal Dutch Shell sinks five wells off Alaska — slated for next month — it will be the first drilling in U.S. Arctic waters in decades.
Yet it will be just the latest in a slow-moving but steady push to tap the Arctic’s vast natural resources.
Encouraged by high commodity prices and shrinking sea ice, everyone from Big Oil to the cruise industry is eager to get in on the Arctic’s riches.
Nearly 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30% of its undiscovered gas reserves lie north of the Arctic circle, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s 90 billion barrels of oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Finding themselves increasingly locked out of resource-rich nations such as Mexico, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, the world’s major international oil companies are eying this potential Arctic bounty as a source for future growth.