Frequently Asked Questions


The USGS conducts basic research on geologic energy resources including oil, gas, gas hydrates, geothermal, and coal.

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Image shows a drill rig on a snowy landscape with the sun on the horizon
USGS oil and gas assessments are for technically recoverable resources, meaning they can be produced using today’s technology and standard industry practices. However, our assessment does not look at what infrastructure would be required to produce these resources, nor does it look at whether it would be profitable to produce them.
Alaska Geologic Map
USGS is an unbiased, non-regulatory science agency, and therefore we do not advocate for or against oil and gas development in any location. The USGS role is to provide scientifically robust, publicly available estimates of potential resources so decision-makers have the best possible information to manage the Nation’s resources.
Photo of Alaskan tundra
USGS is responsible for oil and gas assessments onshore and in state waters, while BOEM assesses energy resources in the Federal offshore waters and the outer continental shelf.
Oil and Gas Resources of the Arctic Alaska Petroleum Province
The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) is a roughly 23.4 million acre area of Federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It lies in northwest Alaska and borders both the Chukchi Sea to the west and the Beaufort Sea to the north. The NPR-A was originally established in 1923 as a petroleum reserve for the U.S. Navy, then...
Image shows a map of the Alaska North Slope with the assessment units in various colors
The 2017 National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska assessment estimated a mean of 8.7 billion barrels of oil and a mean of 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The largest assessment of oil performed by the USGS to date is the 2016 USGS Assessment of the Wolfcamp Shale in Texas’ Midland Basin, which estimated a mean of 20 billion barrels of oil. The...
Orthoimage of a four-way interchange, Los Angeles, CA
In the 2017 assessment, USGS estimates a mean of 8.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States consumed 7.5 billion barrels of petroleum products in 2018.
Image: Alaska Pipeline
Yes, but not from any of the three new discoveries that spurred our 2017 reassessment.
Image shows a river winding through a green landscape
Assessments regularly change based on our understanding of geology, as well as advances in technology. In this case, three new discoveries by industry drove much of the change in numbers.
Image shows squares of permafrost
USGS regularly re-examines our assessments to see if updated information warrants a reassessment. In this case, three discoveries by industry in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) indicated that there was sufficient reason to reassess. In addition, Secretarial Order 3352 then directed USGS to perform a reassessment of the NPR-A. The...
Orthoimage of a four-way interchange, Los Angeles, CA
Atmospheric carbon dioxide comes from two primary sources—natural and human activities. Natural sources of carbon dioxide include most animals, which exhale carbon dioxide as a waste product. Human activities that lead to carbon dioxide emissions come primarily from energy production, including burning coal, oil, or natural gas.
WERC Redwood forest field photo
The USGS is congressionally mandated (2007 Energy Independence and Security Act) to conduct a comprehensive national assessment of storage and flux (flow) of carbon and the fluxes of other greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) in ecosystems. At this writing, reports have been completed for Alaska, the Eastern U.S., the Great Plains, and the ...
Image: Coal Burning Power Plant
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2017, the United States emitted 5.1 billion metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide, while the global emissions of energy-related carbon dioxide totaled 32.5 billion metric tons.