Crude oil consists of hydrocarbons which have formed from sediments rich in organic matter. ‘Conventional’ oil and gas reservoirs are created when hydrocarbons migrate from the source rock into permeable reservoirs, where they become trapped by an overlying layer of impermeable rock. Many of the hydrocarbons however, are not expelled and remain behind in the source rock. Oil and gas extracted directly from tight source rocks are generally termed ‘unconventional’.

Natural bitumen and extra-heavy oil are higher-viscosity and contain more by-products than conventional crude oil. As a result of this, natural bitumen and extra-heavy oil have higher extraction, transportation and refining costs, making crude oil often the most cost-effective choice.

Oil is the dominant fuel for transportation and this trend is expected to continue. In 2015, world oil production reached 4,461 Million tonnes (Mt), an increase of 3.0% from 2014 (130 Mt), representing steady growth in the OECD (+4.2%, 47 Mt) and OPEC (+3.7%, 64 Mt) and an average lower growth in other producing countries (+1.3%, 19 Mt). In 2014, OPEC production declined (–1.0%), while the OECD and the rest of the world showed substantial growths (+8.4% and +1.6%, respectively).

The largest five top liquids producers increased their share of total world production (to almost 49%), and the United States remained the world’s top producer (567 Mt). The second top producer was Saudi Arabia (568.5 Mt), followed by the Russian Federation (540.7 Mt), Canada (215.5 Mt) and the People’s Republic of China (214.6 Mt).

The world’s oil shale resources are estimated to contain around 6,050 billion barrels of shale oil, which makes them four times the size of the world’s conventional crude oil resources. There are over 600 known deposits in 33 countries on all continents.

The proven reserves have grown over the last 20 years from 1126.2 billion barrels to 1697.6 billion barrels with regional distribution largely being maintained consistently over time, with one important exception – South and Central America has captured a greater share of the proven reserves over time as the Middle East – the traditional source of crude oil supply for the best part of the last century lost share from 55% to 47% in the last 10 years.

Oil data is sourced from BP Statistical Review of 2016 (data from end-2015) and BGR, 2015, Energy study: reserves, resources and availability of energy resources (data from end-2014), and includes per selected countries production in Mt per year, proved recoverable reserves in Mt and consumption in Mt per year.

Global Oil Recoverable Reserves

Recoverable239billion tonnes

Oil Recoverable Reserves by region

  Loading graph...

Top Oil producing countries

  Loading graph...

Oil Recoverable Reserves by region

  Loading graph...


Oil data represents Crude Oil only, for extra-heavy oil and oil shale please refer to the WER 2013 report oil chapter.