ANWR Oil Drilling

Upstream Online  Sep 21  Comment 
Helped by a reality-TV star, Republican lawmakers on Wednesday pitched drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife refuge as one remedy for chronic joblessness and a gaping US budget deficit.
Energy and Capital  Jun 30  Comment 
Editor Keith Kohl reveals to readers why drilling in ANWR may not have an impact on record oil prices.


To drill, or not to drill. That's the $400 billion question that's been tossed around in Congress for the past 30 years. For Shell, Exxon, and the other Oil & Gas Majors, claiming a stake of those potential revenues is a multi-billion dollar pursuit.

The United States Geological Survey has put the quantity of oil underneath the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) at around 10 billion barrels.[1] Given that most of the areas oil would be pumped out around 2020-2040, and given the worst case scenario for the oil majors, that oil would produce at least $400B in revenues.

Who Benefits from Drilling in ANWR

All companies involved in the oil value chain would benefit. Oil has to be found, extracted, transported, refined, and transported again to where it can be sold.

The largest winners would be the Independent Oil & Gas companies and the Oil & Gas Majors that are able to find easily extractable reserves, as well as the oilfield services companies that they contract.

Who Losses from Drilling in ANWR

The actual output from oil wells in ANWR would be enough to decrease prices by at most a dollar a barrel. That kind of price change isn't enough to cause large changes. However, one of the primary political arguments for drilling in ANWR is that it would increase America's energy independence, the same argument used to support renewable energy. Therefore, legislative support for renewable energy grants and subsidies would fall. Does that matter, though?

The Economics of ANWR

There are three things that determine the value of drilling in ANWR: the quantity of oil it holds, the cost of extracting it, and the expected price of oil.

The Politics of ANWR

There are x main forces that impact the political likelihood that drilling will be allowed in the ANWR region: the price of oil, the amount of oil that the U.S. is importing, and the party in charge of congress.

The Price of Oil

One of the principle reasons people wish to open up drilling in ANWR is to lower the domestic price of oil. When prices have been high, interest in ANWR has been renewed, like the burst of interest caused by the spike in oil prices in mid 2008. Following the rise in prices there was an increase in news stories covering the issue. As prices started to fall again in July, news stories covering the issue decreased.[2]

Analysis of Recent Events Impacting Drilling in ANWR

  • November 20, 2008: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Shell from proceeding with its plans to drill in Sivulliq, a prospect off the shore of northern Alaska. The Court has required Shell to re-apply for permission from the Minerals Management Service, which is being forced to conduct another, more comprehensive, environmental analysis to determine the potential consequences of drilling.[3]
  • December 18, 2008: Shell canceled its plan to establish an offshore rig and drill three exploratory wells in the Beaufort Sea in 2009 as a result of the injunction in November, but has challenged the decision.[4]
  • January 14, 2009: Senator Joseph Lieberman and 23 other senators introduced a bill which, if passed, would prohibit drilling in all of ANWR.[5]


  1. United States Geological Survey - Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 1002 Area, Petroleum Assessment, 1998, Including Economic Analysis
  2. Google - Archive Search
  3. NY Times - Court Says Shell Can’t Drill Near Alaska
  4. newsminer - Shell cancels 2009 Alaska off-shore drilling program
  5. platts - US senators aim to close ANWR coastal plain with new bill
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