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Oil and Gas Resource Assessment of the Russian Arctic
Project Number

The principal objective of the project is to provide partial support to the U.S. Geological Survey for its preparation of a scientifically sound and politically unbiased assessment of oil and gas resources of the offshore and onshore petroleum provinces of the Russian Arctic region.


U.S. Geological Survey, Lakewood, CO


As part of its ongoing mission to provide up-to-date, scientifically valid assessments of oil and gas resources of the world, USGS since 2004 has been conducting a resource assessment of the circum-Arctic region. The vast Russian Arctic shelf and several large onshore basins occupy about half of this region. Only a few relatively small areas of the Arctic have been moderately explored, whereas data for most of the area are very scarce. The Russian Arctic is especially challenging for resource assessment. No wells have been drilled in several large sedimentary basins offshore and only very limited seismic data have ever been acquired. A viable evaluation of resource potential demands the full utilization of the limited data available and the consistent application of the most robust geologic analysis and resource assessment methodology.

The project objectives break down as:

  • The compilation of a tectono-stratigraphic map of the Russian Arctic to be used in basin definition, delineation, and classification. The compilation will provide the basis for specifically determining and classifying the areas of northern Russia to be assessed by the USGS.
  • After provinces and basins have been defined and classified, the petroleum geology of each province with petroleum potential will be interpreted based upon the best available geological and geophysical data.
  • For each petroliferous Russian Arctic province, petroleum systems will be defined and mapped, and the relevant petroleum geology information and analogs will be assembled in preparation for assessment.
  • The oil and gas potential of each Russian Arctic province will be assessed using USGS resource assessment methodology as adapted for application to the circum-Arctic regions.

The Russian Arctic as well as the rest of the Arctic realm is the last world frontier for exploration of potentially rich petroleum provinces. The USGS world petroleum resource assessment completed in 2000 concluded that only a few arctic basins included in the study contain a significant portion of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas. Knowledge of the potential resource base in the Arctic is necessary for industry to plan long-term investments in exploration and development. This knowledge is also useful for the U.S. government in its efforts to conduct strategic energy supply planning in light of potential oil supply disruptions in politically unstable areas.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)

In May 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) completed its assessment of undiscovered oil and gas resources in all areas north of the Arctic Circle, including the Russian Arctic. Probabilistic estimates of undiscovered oil, gas, and natural gas liquids were reported for each of 69 assessment units. The statistical aggregation of results indicates that between 44 and 157 billion barrels of oil (about 13% of the total world undiscovered oil) and between 770 and 2990 trillion cubic feet of gas (about 30% of the total world undiscovered gas) remains to be discovered north of the Arctic Circle. On an energy-equivalency basis, undiscovered natural gas is estimated to be much more abundant than oil north of the Arctic Circle.

The DOE funds enabled the purchase of important seismic data and technical reports in support of the assessment

The Russian Arctic is among the least explored areas of the world. Geological and geophysical data for most of the Russian shelf are scarce, and free access to the existing data is extremely limited. Assessment of this region requires adjustment of the assessment methodology, full utilization of published information, purchase of essential seismic data, and gaining access to scientific expertise through contracting with well-known Russian scientists.

The results of the project demonstrate the economic availability of Russian Arctic resources in the context of the entire Arctic and the world.

Current Status

(January 2010) 
The initial results of the USGS Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal, including assessment of the Russian Arctic, have been completed and released (

The project was under an interagency agreement government contract to provide partial support to the USGS in its assessment of the Russian Arctic. DOE provided $ 250 K and USGS provided $40K for purchase of select seismic lines and technical reports used in the Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal.

The final project report has been completed and is available below under "Additional Information".

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution

$40,000 (14 percent of total)

Contact Information

NETL - Virgiina Weyland ( or 281-494-2517)
U.S. Geological Survey - Donald Gautier ( or 650 329-4909)

Additional Information

Final Project Report [PDF-240MB]

White, L.P., Bishop, R.S., and Gautier, D.L., “Handling extreme uncertainty in assessing Circum-Arctic petroleum potential,” AAPG International Conference and Exhibition, Paris, France, September 11-14, 2005.

Ulmishek, G.F., “U.S. Geological Survey project on petroleum resource assessment of the Circum-Arctic region,” Geological Society of London Conference on Oil-Gas Habitats of Russia and Surrounding Regions, London, United Kingdom, February 8-9, 2006.