Over the past ten years, the price of oil has certainly been volatile. This has led to concern at all levels, from the businesspeople selling oil, to the governments and policy makers in charge of regulating the industry. There are also environmental concerns associated with increased fossil fuel consumption, leading some to question whether there are enough oil reserves to satisfy demand, and what the long-term consequences of extraction may be.
As you can see, there are a lot of questions surrounding the oil industry at the present time. To help make things a little clearer, we have composed a list of the ten countries with the largest oil reserves in the world, to show how they fit into the global energy landscape.
1. Venezuela – 298.4 Billion Barrels
Possessing over 298 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, Venezuela is by far the country with the largest reserves in the world today. While they currently hold the top spot, they only reached this point fairly recently- at the end of the previous decade, it was Saudi Arabia which was well out in front of other countries in terms of its oil reserves.
That all changed when Venezuela discovered huge oil sands deposits, which significantly boosted its global ranking. These reserves are similar to those of Canada, although Venezuela also possesses significant conventional oil deposits. In addition, the Orinoco tar sands of Venezuela are much less viscous than those of Canada, meaning the oil sands can be easily extracted with conventional techniques. This means it is much less expensive to extract this oil, putting Venezuela ahead of its North American rival in terms of capital requirements.
2. Saudi Arabia – 268.3 Billion Barrels
For decades now, Saudi Arabia has been famous the world over for its oil reserves. Thanks to the powerful position this puts the country in, the Saudis have had an important place in global politics, as well as making many of the country’s inhabitants extremely rich. This makes it all the more shocking for many to find that their long-established place as leaders in the world of oil has been claimed by Venezuela.
that Saudi Arabia is no longer the world’s leader in terms of oil reserves. Although their 267 billion barrels of proven oil reserves might be somewhat behind those of Venezuela, though, all of that oil is within conventionally accessible oil wells, which are themselves situated within vast oil fields. In fact, the Saudi Arabian reserves make up over a fifth of the entire planet’s conventional reserves. Many believe that with additional exploration, Saudi Arabia may well regain its place at the top of this list. For instance, the US Geological Survey predicts that there may be in excess of 100 billion barrels hidden beneath the Saudi deserts, just waiting to be discovered and tapped.
3. Canada – 171 Billion Barrels
According to the latest estimates, Canada is home to around 172.9 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. The most significant chunk of this total comes in the form of oil sands deposits within the province of Alberta. In addition, the majority of the nation’s conventionally accessible oil reserves are also situated in Alberta.
Since tapping Canada’s oil reserves is a costly, time-consuming process, production tends to operate in stops and starts, rather than continuously. Oil companies tend to begin by extracting lower density, higher value oils, and only switch to extracting crude deposits when oil prices are at a peak.
4. Iran – 157.8 Billion Barrels
Iran possesses almost 160 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, which puts it in a very strong position in terms of the wealth that oil can bring. In terms of easily-accessible reserves, it actually ranks third, since many of the reserves in Canada are difficult to reach and tap. Iran has been producing oil for over 100 years now, and if they proceed at the current rate of extraction, the country’s reserves will likely last another 100 years. While Saudi oil is spread across a small group of vast, highly rich oil fields, Iranian oil is spread across some 150 hydrocarbon fields, many of which are also home to significant deposits of petroleum crude oil and natural gas.
5. Iraq – 144.2 Billion Barrels
While Iraq has seen its fair share of troubles in the last few decades, it is nonetheless home to some of the world’s biggest proven reserves of crude oil. Given the military occupations in recent years, it hasn’t been possible to conduct any serious exploration of the country’s oil reserves- meaning that the data used to determine Iraq’s reserves is some two decades old, and reliant on outdated survey techniques. However, as the Iraqi authorities start to regain control over larger swathes of their country, there has been significant hope that the nation’s oil infrastructure can be developed in the years to come.
6. Kuwait – 104 Billion Barrels
While Kuwait is a relatively small country, it is home to an impressive share of the world’s total oil reserves. Some 5 billion barrels lie beneath the Saudi-Kuwaiti neutral zone, which the two countries share. Meanwhile, over 70 billion barrels of oil are situated in the Burgan field, which is the second largest oil field in the entire world.
7. Russia – 103.2 Billion Barrels
Russia is packed full of a variety of natural energy sources- in particular, huge oil reserves sit beneath the sprawling Siberian plains. Russia’s oil output fell significantly in the years after the fall of the USSR, production has been boosted over the last few years. As exploration continues below the arctic regions of the country, Russia’s reserves of oil and gas may well rise further.
8. United Arab Emirates – 97.8 Billion Barrels
The vast majority of UAE oil comes from the Zakum field, which holds an estimated 66 billion barrels. This makes it the third-largest oil field in the Middle East, behind only the Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia and the Burgan field in Kuwait. Around 40% of the country’s whole GDP is linked to its oil and gas input. Since oil was first discovered in the UAE in 1958, the country has used this wealth as a springboard to become a highly modern state, with a remarkable standard of living.
9. Libya – 48.36 Billion Barrels
Libya possesses the largest total oil reserves in the whole of Africa. What’s more, it may also be home to much larger reserves than we currently know of, since much of the nation’s subterranean landscape remains unexplored because of previous sanctions against foreign oil companies. In 2012, oil exports made up an enormous 98% of government revenue in Libya. However, because of more recent political instability, Libya’s position amongst the world’s top oil producers is under threat. Once the political situation has died down somewhat, it is expected that Libya will attract significant foreign investment, as companies look to find new reserves in the nation.
10. Nigeria – 37.07 Billion Barrels
While Libya might have larger reserves, Nigeria is a more active producer of oil, making the country the largest oil producer in Africa, and tenth in the world. At their current rate of production, this would make for a 45-year supply if no new reserves are found. However, pipeline vandalism and militant takeovers of oil facilities have had a significant effect on oil production in Nigeria. Oil accounts for around 14% of Nigeria’s total economy.
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