- One of the most troubled countries in the world, Venezuela is also the country with the world’s largest oil reserves.
- Not all major oil producers have major proven oil reserves.
- Sources estimate the U.S. crude oil reserves differently, but the EIA estimates that the U.S. has some 36 billion barrels of producible crude and condensate.
We all know who the biggest producers of crude oil in the world are and can list the top three without effort. But here’s the thing – the biggest producers are not necessarily the countries with the biggest reserves.
There are various reasons for that, as we shall see below. For now, suffice it to say it is one thing to have a natural resource and quite another to develop it fully.
Here are the top ten countries richest in crude oil in ascending order.
Political instability and power struggles among different factions following the civil war is the main reason for Libya’s consistent trouble in making the most of its oil resources. Yet it seems things may be starting to turn around with Europe looking to the North African country as a bigger source of oil.
Sources estimate the U.S. crude oil reserves differently. Some, such as the Energy Information Administration, put these at a little under 36 billion barrels and count condensate reserves separately.
Others, such as the World Population Review, count crude and condensates together, coming up with reserves of 68.8 billion barrels for the U.S. Per the EIA figures, crude and condensates together come in at around 74 billion barrels. Yet the country is the biggest crude oil producer in the world.
Kuwait has some 101.5 billion barrels in proven oil reserves, according to OPEC. The tiny Gulf state produces between 2.4 million and 2.67 million barrels of oil daily and exports some 1.7 million bpd.
The state has big plans for its oil riches – by 2030, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation plans to boost the country’s production capacity to as much as 4 million barrels daily. Clearly, Kuwait is not particularly worried about predictions anticipating the demise of oil demand.
OPEC’s third-biggest oil producer, the United Arab Emirates, holds an estimated 111 billion barrels of crude oil and produces an average of 2.7 million barrels of it daily. Of this, it exports 2.3 million barrels daily, according to OPEC data.
Besides a major oil producer and home to some of the world’s biggest reserves, the UAE is also an example of an economy that is using its main export commodity to diversify away from it. Thanks to its oil wealth, the UAE has turned into a luxury tourism magnet and has high hopes as a high-tech hub.
A couple of years ago, Russia was producing more than 11 million barrels daily, including condensates, but the invasion of Ukraine and the Western sanctions that followed prompted a response, and one of the forms it took was a production cut. Even so, exports of crude and fuels have returned to pre-war levels.
Iraq, OPEC’s number-two producer, is home to proven reserves of some 145 billion barrels, with production at around 4.5 million barrels daily. Exports average 3.4 million bpd but, like Kuwait, Iraq has big plans.
Baghdad’s ambition is to match the output of its bigger fellow OPEC member Saudi Arabia but, according to analysts, it won’t be able to do that, with production capacity seen peaking at some 6.3 million barrels daily over the next five years.
Iran has oil reserves of 208.6 billion barrels and produces around 2.39 million barrels daily. Of this, it only exports a little over 760,000 bpd, per OPEC data. The reason for the substantial gap between reserves, production, and exports are, of course, U.S. sanctions that the former administration re-imposed on Iran.
Despite the sanctions—and the failed negotiations for their removal—Iran has been exporting more crude, topping 1.13 million bpd in late 2022 and starting this year on an upward trajectory, too. There are plans to boost production as well.
Canada is home to 171 billion barrels of crude oil, most of it in the form of bitumen in oil sands: as much as 166.3 billion of the total is oil sands, concentrated in Alberta. That’s a tenth of the world’s total oil reserves.
The country is the fourth-largest oil producer in the world, with its daily average at over 5 million barrels last year—a record high. Interestingly, production is on the rise despite the federal government’s efforts to shrink the industry because of its carbon footprint. Demand for oil, however, keeps producers pumping. A recent Ipsos survey found that Canada is also the most preferred oil supplier on a global scale.
#2 Saudi Arabia
The world’s second-largest producer and OPEC’s largest, Saudi Arabia, has proven reserves of some 267 billion barrels. Production was a little over 9 million barrels daily in 2021, which rose to 11.5 million bpd in 2022, only to be cut recently by half a million bpd as part of the latest round of output cuts in OPEC+.
Despite its tight hold of the production reins, the kingdom plans to expand its production capacity from the current 12 million barrels daily to 13 million barrels daily in 2027. Some analysts, however, have warned that Saudi Arabia is close to reaching its oil peak.
One of the most troubled countries in the world, Venezuela is also the country with the world’s largest oil reserves, pegged at over 300 billion barrels. Yet U.S. sanctions, a now chronic economic crisis, and corruption have combined to prevent the country from making the most of its oil riches.
After a period of flourishing in the nineties and early 2000s, the first oil price slump of the new millennium crippled the Venezuelan economy. Before it had a chance to recover, the U.S. slammed it with sanctions that have decimated output: in 2022, the average was 600,000 to 700,000 bpd. Exports averaged a little over 600,000 bpd.