The Arctic under threar from oil exploration - painting by Kurt Jackson
Ever since the discovery of the massive Prudhoe Bay oil field on Alaska's North Slope in 1968, the oil industry has longed to search for and develop oil offshore. Extreme Arctic conditions and the immensely powerful and shifting Arctic ice pack meant that exploration, and particularly production, would be extremely expensive and risky. Contradicting its "green" rhetoric, BP Amoco is now trying to develop "Northstar", the first offshore oil development project in the Arctic Ocean.
Construction of Northstar, located about six miles north of Point Storkersen in the Beaufort Sea, just west of Prudhoe Bay, has now begun. An existing gravel island, Seal Island, is being enlarged with thousands of tonnes of gravel to cover five acres, and would serve as a platform for up to 30 wells. The field is currently estimated to contain 145-185 million barrels of oil with BP Amoco's total investment in the project exceeding $500 million. If Northstar moves ahead, BP Amoco and other oil companies are prepared to accelerate their expansion into the Beaufort Sea, opening up a completely new oil frontier.
Greenpeace opposes the opening of new oil frontiers because climate scientists tell us we can only afford to burn one quarter of the world's total oil reserves to avoid catastrophic climate change. At current rates of burning fossil fuels we will pass "safe limits" within forty years.