WASHINGTON, July 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. government said it was calling for information about the oil and natural gas resource potential in the Beaufort Sea off the northern coast of Alaska.
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it wanted to find out more about the oil and gas that could lie in the area as it plans a possible lease sale for 2017.
In April, Royal Dutch Shell said that, as traditional oil and gas reserves decline, oil companies will have to look to more challenging locations to keep up with global energy demand.
Shell in January suspended efforts to explore Alaskan waters because of costs and court challenges to its exploration campaign. The company maintained the energy potential offshore Alaska may be "enormous."
Acting BOEM Director Walter Cruikshank said the federal government is committed to stepping lightly in the northern arctic region off the Alaskan coast.
"There is significant oil and gas potential in the Beaufort Sea, but this part of the Arctic Ocean is also a unique and sensitive environment that is critically important to the subsistence needs of Alaska Native communities on the North Slope," he said in a statement Friday.
The agency said it would make a final decision on potential leases after evaluating industry interest against environment issues and aboriginal concerns.