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Handling Extreme Uncertainty in Assessing Circum-Arctic Petroleum Potential


White, Loring P., Richard S. Bishop, Donald L. Gautier, Houston, TX


The Circum-Arctic is perhaps the most interesting and least known region of high petro­leum potential remaining on earth. Although a few Arctic basins are known to be world-class petroleum provinces, including the West Siberian Basin, the Arctic has not been extensive­ly explored. Outside of the few developed areas, assessments can be extremely uncertain because data are unusually sparse and difficult to obtain.

It is a common practice to decline to assess when very little is known about a geologi­cal province - inadequacy of data being cited. However, not assessing is the de facto assign­ment of zero potential to non-assessed areas. The net effect is a systematic underestimate of resource potential - the challenge is to develop an unbiased assessment protocol.

Reporting the distribution of resource volumes alone is inadequate for many crucial Arctic policy decisions yet to be made by industry & government. Resource potential is as much a function of costs as volumes. Extreme uncertainty in the costs of Arctic exploration, development, production, and transportation must also be included in assessment of Arctic resource potential - the challenge is to develop an integrated assessment protocol.

This presentation summarizes our approach to handling the extreme uncertainties in Arctic petroleum volumes & costs: (1) The objectives of the assessment, (2) the implica­tions of extreme uncertainty, (3) the analytical approaches under development, (4) the work currently underway, and (5) the intended results.