The World’s Largest Oil Reserves By Country

By Antonia Čirjak on June 16 2020 in Economics

When we mention oil reserves of a specific country, we are talking about the amounts of crude oil that can be found in the country and recovered at a cost that matches the current price of oil.
When we mention oil reserves of a specific country, we are talking about the amounts of crude oil that can be found in the country and recovered at a cost that matches the current price of oil.
  • If a specific region in a country is suddenly deemed to have recoverable oil under the economic conditions, the proven oil reserves of that country can grow tremendously.
  • With 298,400,000,000 barrels of oil, Venezuela is the country with the largest oil reserves in the world. This amount makes up for 17,9% of the world's total oil reserves.
  • While Canada produces only 4.8 million barrels of oil daily, the country has about 171,000,000,000 barrels of proven oil reserves, which is more than any country in North America and enough to earn the third-place globally.
  • In the last decade, the daily production of oil in Iraq has seen a 50% increase, and the trend is expected to continue.

When we mention oil reserves of a specific country, we are talking about the amounts of crude oil that can be found in the country and recovered at a cost that matches the current price of oil. This is why the reserves of oil globally affect the price of oil. This makes oil reserves different from oil resources, which include all of the available oil, no matter the price of recovery. Oil reserves are determined on a variety of levels, including the reservoir level, the national level, and the world level. 

When discussing oil reserves of a specific country, we focus on proven oil reserves. Proven reserves of oil are those quantities that we can confidently estimate are true, by using various engineering and geological data. These quantities of petroleum are commercially recoverable at any time from well-known reservoirs.

Current economic conditions of a country play a large role in this, and can tremendously impact the list of the countries with the most significant oil reserves. If a specific region in a country is suddenly deemed to have recoverable oil under the economic conditions, the proven oil reserves of that country can grow tremendously. It happened with Venezuela and Canada. In this article, we will talk about the five countries with the largest oil reserves.

1. Venezuela - 298,400,000,000 barrels

Venezuela oil and gas company.
Venezuela oil and gas company.

With 298,400,000,000 barrels of oil, Venezuela is the country with the largest oil reserves in the world. This amount makes up for 17,9% of the world's total oil reserves. The country also produces about 2.1 million barrels of oil daily. Despite the country being in an economic turmoil and constantly facing a political crisis, it manages to keep its first place as the country with the largest proven oil reserves.

The economy of Venezuela relies heavily on petroleum, and it accounts for more than 90% of its exports. However, with the global oil prices being in decline, the country is facing a huge economic crisis, especially since it did not invest in the renovation of its obsolete oil extraction infrastructure. Their daily production of barrels has decreased significantly over the past few years.

2. Saudi Arabia - 268,300,000,000 barrels

Oil platform in Saudi Arabia.
Oil platform in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia holds second place with 268,300,000,000 barrels of oil reserves. It is not far behind Venezuela, and with a daily production of 12 million barrels, it might overtake the first place soon. The amount of barrels produced daily is higher than any other country besides the United States.

Just like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia depends on the export of petroleum heavily. It makes up more than 75% of the country’s export revenue. The oil reserves in Saudi Arabia make it a strong strategic ally to the United States, despite may blatantly problematic aspects of the country. Some of those include human rights violations and many international incidents.

3. Canada - 171,000,000,000 barrels

Petroleum Center of Montreal East
Petroleum Center of Montreal East

While Canada produces only 4.8 million barrels of oil daily, the country has about 171,000,000,000 barrels of proven oil reserves, which is more than any country in North America and enough to earn the third-place globally. However, petroleum actually isn’t as important for the economy of Canada as it is for the other countries we mentioned.

Since the economy of this country is extremely diversified, petroleum exports make up a bit less than 20% of the overall exports of Canada. Still, oil production has exploded in this country over the past decade, and we can expect daily oil production to continue rising. There are many large corporations working in Canada’s privatized oil sector, including Suncor, Imperial Oil, and Syncrude.

4. Iran - 157,800,000,000 barrels

With 157,800,000,000 barrels of proven oil reserves, Iran takes the fourth place on this list.
With 157,800,000,000 barrels of proven oil reserves, Iran takes the fourth place on this list.

With 157,800,000,000 barrels of proven oil reserves, Iran takes the fourth place on this list. The daily production of oil is now over 5 million barrels, and since the country is a founding member of OPEC, it makes sense that Iran holds a lot of power in the oil business. OPEC is an organization made up of 13 countries that try to unify and coordinate the policies of these countries regarding oil.

National Iranian Oil Company is the solely responsible company for the entirety of oil exploration and production in this country. Despite the oil production in Iran seeing increases throughout the past decade, experts do not expect this trend to continue. With new U.S. sanctions imposed that restrict several nations from purchasing oil from Iran, including China, Japan, and India, the oil production in this country could plummet.

5. Iraq - 144,200,000,000 barrels

Iraq, the country with 144,200,000,000 barrels of oil and the daily production of 4.5 million barrels.
Iraq, the country with 144,200,000,000 barrels of oil and the daily production of 4.5 million barrels.

The fifth-place of this list is reserved for Iraq, the country with 144,200,000,000 barrels of oil and the daily production of 4.5 million barrels. This amounts to almost 9% of the entire global supply of proven oil reserves. Oil revenue is one of the biggest staples of this country’s economy, and it is heavily reliant on it. It is even more prevalent than in any other country on this list since petroleum actually accounts for more than 95% of Iraq’s exports.

The country does not show signs of stopping. In the last decade, the daily production of oil in Iraq has seen a 50% increase, and the trend is expected to continue. This comes after a long period of civil unrest and several wars that severely damaged the oil infrastructure in the country.

The World’s Largest Oil Reserves By Country

RankCountryBarrels (bbl)
1Venezuela298,400,000,000
2Saudi Arabia268,300,000,000
3Canada171,000,000,000
4Iran157,800,000,000
5Iraq144,200,000,000
6Kuwait104,000,000,000
7Russia103,200,000,000
8United Arab Emirates97,800,000,000
9Libya48,360,000,000
10Nigeria37,070,000,000
11United States36,520,000,000
12Kazakhstan30,000,000,000
13Qatar25,240,000,000
14China24,650,000,000
15Brazil15,310,000,000
16Algeria12,200,000,000
17Mexico9,812,000,000
18Angola9,011,000,000
19Ecuador8,832,000,000
20Guyana8,000,000,000 +

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