511 billion barrels of oil discovered in British Antarctic Territory

Russia has reportedly discovered huge oil reserves in the Weddell Sea, part of the Antarctic territory claimed by the United Kingdom.

Publication: 04.06.2024 - 12:28
511 billion barrels of oil discovered in British Antarctic Territory
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According to documents presented to the UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee in early May, Russian research vessels discovered substantial oil reserves in the Weddell Sea, part of the Antarctic territory claimed by the UK.

The reserves are estimated to contain about 511 billion barrels of oil, roughly ten times the production of the North Sea over the past 50 years.

However, exploiting hydrocarbons in Antarctica is prohibited. The Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959 and effective since 1961, reserves the continent exclusively for peaceful activities and forbids international disputes over it. Thus, Antarctica is mainly used for scientific purposes, particularly climate change research.

Russia's discovery has raised concerns in scientific circles. Klaus Dodds, an Antarctic expert and professor at Royal Holloway College in London, reportedly told British MPs that the Russian survey could be “a conscious decision to weaken the standards of seismic research in Antarctica and ultimately a first step towards future exploitation operations.”

According to the latest annual report from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the size of the oil reserves discovered in Antarctica is significant.

Estimated at 511 billion barrels, these reserves are the second-largest crude oil deposits by region, trailing only the Middle East, which had proven reserves of over 871 billion barrels in 2022.

This also represents nearly double the known reserves of Saudi Arabia, which has the world's second-largest proven oil reserves.


The British Antarctic Territory is the UK's claimed but internationally unrecognized territory in Antarctica. Its main base is Rothera, one of the UK's 14 overseas territories. The region is uninhabited except for base personnel.

Great Britain has officially claimed the region since July 21, 1908, and has considered it part of the Falkland Islands since 1962.

Following the Antarctic Treaty signed on December 1, 1959, the Graham Territories, South Orkney Islands, and South Shetland Islands, which were previously called the Falkland Islands Dependent Territories, became the British Antarctic Territory on March 3, 1962.

Stretching from the 20th longitude to the 80th longitude, Argentina and Chile also claim rights between the 25th and 74th longitudes.

In response to claims not recognized internationally, Great Britain manages the region through the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth, and the Development Office. Under the Antarctic Treaty, which entered into force in 1961, it is open to 'peaceful' visits by all nations.

The region hosts the Rothera and Halley research bases, staffed year-round. It remains uninhabited, except for two small civilian settlements near the main bases of Chile and Argentina on King George Island and Hope Bay.