Nature’s riches

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has said that about 30% of the world's undiscovered gas and 13% of the world's undiscovered oil may be found north of the Arctic Circle, mostly under the sea in less that 500 meters of water. The Russian Arctic has the largest deposits of natural gas in the world.

Oil and gas

Changing economic conditions in newly industrialised countries has created an increasing market for oil and gas and climate change is making areas of the Arctic easier to access to extract these resources.

  • Effects of oil and gas production
  • Some jobs are created, but these are mostly manual work
  • Sometimes some of the money is invested in schools and services for local people.
  • People come in from outside the Arctic region.
  • These people bring with them different lifestyles and products which the indigenous people then use.
Unloading Pizzas
Unloading Pizzas
Drilling rig and lorries
Drilling a deep well with a drilling rig at an oil and gas field in the Arctic.

Find out more

Alaskan oil pipeline

Once the oil is out of the ground it has to be transported to refineries by pipeline.

Alaskan pipeline on the tundra
An Alaskan pipeline on the Arctic tundra.


  • Permafrost would melt if the pipeline was built on the ground
  • Tundra ecosystems will be destroyed by oil spills
  • This area is tectonically active
  • Migration routes of animals such as caribou will be blocked


  • Pipeline built above the ground on stilts
  • Pipeline built underground where there are caribou migration routes with special refrigeration to stop the permafrost melting
discuss icon

Discussion time!

Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of oil and gas production in the Arctic for the area and for the rest of the world.

One of the problems of oil extraction is that there may well be oil spills which could potentially harm the environment, particularly the marine environment. The Arctic Council States also signed a new, legally-binding Agreement in 2013 on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic which will substantially improve procedures for combatting oil spills in the Arctic. Find out more at Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response.

Now discuss whether or not the agreement is enough.

This information sheet tells you more about the geology of the Arctic region.