ARCHIVED - Arctic Council Oil and Gas Assessment

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In 2004, Arctic Council Ministers requested that the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Working Group prepare an updated assessment of oil and gas activities in the Arctic, in follow-up to the hydrocarbon chapter in the 1997-1998 Assessment Report "Arctic Pollution Issues". Norway and the United States led the preparation of the assessment of oil and gas activities in the Arctic. Experts from Canada, Denmark/Greenland/Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States, together with experts from indigenous and other organizations participated in the assessment. The Northern Oil and Gas Branch of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada took the lead in coordinating Canada's input to the assessment, and a number of Canadian scientists and experts contributed to the scientific report.

This Arctic oil and gas assessment took a much broader perspective than the previous assessment, by including a chapter on past, present and future oil and gas activities in the Arctic. It examined the environmental, social, economic and human health effects of current oil and gas activities in the Arctic and also considered potential impacts related to future oil and gas development.

The summary report entitled "Arctic Oil and Gas 2007" includes an Executive Summary highlighting main findings, conclusions and recommendations. An in depth scientific assessment report "Oil and Gas Activities in the Arctic: Effects and Potential Effects," will be published separately.

The summary report states that while extensive oil and gas activity has taken place in the Arctic, there is still considerable potential for oil and gas development in the future. The pace of activity will be influenced by economic factors, societal considerations, regulatory processes and technical advances. The report acknowledges that technological improvements and regulations have greatly reduced the impacts of oil and gas activity, significantly minimizing the environmental footprint. However, environmental risks cannot be completely eliminated. Petroleum hydrocarbon concentrations are generally low in the Arctic, and findings indicate that natural seeps are the major source of hydrocarbon contamination.

In terms of effects, physical disturbances have the largest effect on terrestrial environments, whereas oil spills pose the greatest threat in marine environments. Responding to major oil spills remains a challenge in remote icy environments. The report indicated that impacts on people, communities and governments can be both positive and negative across the circumpolar region. Further research is required into the potential human health affects that result from oil and gas activities. In addition, planning, monitoring and research to fill scientific knowledge gaps across the circumpolar region are necessary for future assessments.

View the Arctic Oil and Gas 2007 summary report. Published chapters of the scientific assessment can be accessed at the same site by clicking on the link for "Assessment 2007 - Oil and Gas in the Arctic: Effects and Potential Effects".

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