For all the talk that the world is running low on crude oil, there sure have been a lot of significant recent discoveries of the stuff. Just last year, PetroChina (NYSE: PTR ) announced one of the largest discoveries in China in decades, which fellow Fool Toby Shute quickly dismissed as a puddle compared to Brazilian energy giant Petrobras's (NYSE: PBR ) own massive discovery.
Given the above finds, the latest development could garner a collective sigh of relief from those preoccupied with a dwindling global crude supply. On Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced a study that estimated there are 90 billion barrels of oil tucked away as undiscovered oil in an area north of the Arctic Circle. If that's not enough for you, it also reckons a mean estimate of 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.
For those of us that consider ourselves oil-lingo challenged, the experts out there assure us that's a lot of oil. The USGS estimates that this accounts for 13% of the world's undiscovered oil, and 30% of its undiscovered natural gas.
There will be plenty of work to do, but there isn't expected to be an immediate response to the USGS report and subsequent rush to tap this supply, since cheaper and easier-to-reach sources still exist. Way, way, way cheaper.
Still, certain companies have already developed much of the expertise they'd need for such a venture. Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A ) (NYSE: RDS-B ) , BP (NYSE: BP ) , and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) all might have the skills, thanks to their rugged Russian experiences. For its part, StatoilHydro (NYSE: STO ) has actually already begun production in the Arctic Circle.
Because of the technical challenges and ginormous costs, significant production in the Arctic won't happen overnight. But at some point, someone will want to tell Santa to move over -- Big Oil is coming through.