Russia has found monumental oil and gas reserves in Antarctica

It contains an estimated volume of 511 billion barrels of oil, 10 times the production of the North Sea in the last 50 years. Russia would be in breach of the Antarctic Treaty if it continued seismic activity and conducted any exploratory drilling.

13 de May de 2024 14:14

It is in the sector claimed by Argentina, Chile and Great Britain.

Russia has found vast reserves of oil and gas in Antarctica, much of it in areas claimed by the United Kingdom, Argentina and Chile. This was reported by the British media The Telegram and S&P Global , and by the countries that make up the BRICS on Twitter.

The studies are a prelude to installing drilling platforms to exploit the pristine region for fossil fuels, British parliamentarians have warned.

Russian research vessels have reported reserves totaling 511 billion barrels of oil to Moscow – about 10 times the total production of the North Sea in 50 years – according to evidence presented last week to the Environmental Audit Committee. of the House of Commons (EAC).

A Russian move to assess offshore oil and gas potential in Antarctica may not signal the start of a race to develop the world's last great desert, but it does threaten to unravel a fragile political compromise that has protected the region for the past few years. years. 60 years.

Russia's state geological survey, Rosgeologia, captured 4,400 km of new seismic data in the Riiser-Larsen Sea, off the coast of Antarctica's Queen Maud Land, earlier this year, it announced last week. Rosgeologia said the aim of the first seismic survey in the area by Russia since the late 1990s was to assess the area's offshore oil and gas potential using the latest technology.

Unlike the Arctic, which is open to hydrocarbon exploration, Antarctica's mineral resources, including oil and gas, are protected by amendments to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, to which Russia is a signatory.

Since the treaty reserves Antarctica solely for non-military scientific research, Russia's admission that it is mapping fossil fuel deposits in the region will likely raise diplomatic and environmental problems alike.

"Antarctica has always been a place where countries can put aside their political differences in the interests of peace and science and to jeopardize that would be extremely unfortunate at a time when there is so much geopolitical conflict," said Claire Christian, the executive director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC), which represents the global environmental community in the Antarctic Treaty.

🇷🇺 Russia discovers oil and gas reserve in British Antarctic territory.

It contains an estimated 511 billion barrels worth of oil, 10 times the North Sea's output over the last 50 years.

The treaty's ban on any mineral resource activities other than scientific research has in the past provided a convenient loophole for geological studies in Antarctica.

In fact, several countries have been mapping the underlying structure of Antarctica and its adjacent waters with geological surveys for decades. But so far, none have explicitly linked the work to the search for oil and gas. As a result, Rosgeologia's bold admission could put Moscow at odds with the treaty's 53 other signatories.


An Antarctic Treaty Secretariat official said Russia had not informed the Secretariat about its recent hydrocarbon exploration, but said there was no commitment to do so under the treaty's statutes.

Political balancing act

According to Rosgeologia, Russian offshore exploration work in Antarctica since the late 1970s already indicates potential oil and gas reserves of 70 billion tons, or about 513 billion barrels. However, it is unclear how much could be recovered economically.

Despite speculation about the oil riches in underexplored Antarctica, the region's resource potential is still unproven. A handful of shallow stratigraphic drilling and extensive seismic work have yet to show - at least officially - strong signs of major oil potential.

A 1992 study by United States Geological Survey expert John Kingston concluded that Antarctica's total recoverable oil resources could be around 19 billion barrels of oil and 106 Tcf of gas under "recovery" conditions. normal". However, given the technical difficulties for oil projects in the remote, ice-covered Antarctic environment, he estimated that commercial-scale fields of at least 500 million barrels would likely total only 6 billion barrels and 32 Tcf.

Previous geological studies have focused on the Ross and Weddell Seas, but Russia's latest work off Queen Maud Land is in an area claimed by Norway since 1939. Norway is one of seven countries that have territorial claims in Antarctica but have agreed to put aside disputes over sovereignty. under the political commitment of the treaty. Moscow, like the United States, has not made any claims but has reserved the right to do so.

Rosgeologia did not respond to requests for more details about the latest campaign or whether the work was commissioned by the government or oil companies.

Norway's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Rosgeologia's latest study or say whether it intends to raise the issue with Antarctic Treaty member countries at their next annual meeting.

Global warming

Russia has already been at the forefront of polar exploration in recent years as rising global temperatures and melting ice sheets make access easier. In 2007, Moscow sparked a diplomatic row by planting a flag on the seabed beneath the Arctic, where nearly a quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas is believed to be found. Russian state oil giant Rosneft has since mapped extensive 3D seismic activity in the Arctic waters of the Kara and Pechora seas as part of an effort to exploit receding ice levels and increase its oil and gas resources in the Arctic.

While Western oil majors have largely retreated from Arctic exploration, Russia's current push toward polar expansion is likely to fuel tensions over climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels.

The world's polar regions are very vulnerable to warming. While global temperatures have risen 1C from pre-industrial levels, the Antarctic Peninsula has seen a rise of more than 2.5C, greater than anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere, according to a briefing paper last year by the Institute. Grantham of Imperial College.

"Antarctica is becoming more accessible, it's easier to get to, the international presence is expanding there. There are challenges that we need to find solutions to together," Jane Rumble, head of the UK's Department of Polar Regions, told Russian government. -run by the RIA Novosti news agency last week.

Rumble, speaking after Antarctic Treaty talks in Moscow with the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that "Russian colleagues and I have similar views on the need for effective management of international activities in Antarctica."


Playing the long game

According to the current Protocol on Environmental Protection of the treaty, Russia would clearly breach protocol if it continued seismic activity with any exploratory drilling.

But in 2048, the ban on mining activity comes up for possible renewal, plunging the future of the continent's frozen resources into uncertainty. However, as things stand, ASOC's Christian sees little prospect of the mineral ban being lifted given that several treaty members have already said they would oppose changes to the status quo.

Adopting an attitude of oil exploration activity well before this deadline may be one of the reasons for Russia's new confidence in expressing its interest in Antarctica's oil and gas potential. With oil prices hovering around $60 a barrel, a growing global backlash against fossil fuels and ample existing reserves of oil and gas in less hostile parts of the world, the timing for Russia is not easy to understand.

Rumble, for his part, is confident that the odds are against a further boost to oil and gas activity in Antarctica in the short term.

"Now and in the future, all countries participating in the treaty will have to reach an agreement to start extracting mineral resources, and I don't see that prospect in the near future simply because it is extremely expensive to do so in Antarctica," she said. .

The 54 signatories of the Antarctic Treaty are due to discuss progress on the agreement at the next annual meeting in Helsinki, Finland, at the end of May.


The Telegraph


S&P Global

By Agenda Malvinas


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