How Much Oil Is Left In The World, & When Will We Run Out?

This is a short guide where we outline how much oil might be left in the world.

We look at total numbers, as well as how many years of oil supply there might be left.

 

Summary – How Much Oil Is Left In The World, & When Will We Run Out?

Remaining oil estimates vary amongst different sets of data and reports

Some estimates range from 30 to 50 years based on factors like current production levels, known proved oil reserves, and population growth, whilst some put oil reserves as being much higher when taking into consideration future recoverable oil reserve estimates (the US is an example of a country that may have significant future recoverable oil reserves)

There’s a difference between the total amount of oil reserves, and the amount of proved, recoverable, or producible oil.

Proved oil takes into consideration oil that can be technically and financially extracted and produced at today’s oil price

When considering oil estimates – it should be specified the categorisation of the oil (for example total reserves vs proven reserves, shale oil vs other types of oil, and so on), the definition of the phrase used to describe the oil (as proved oil for example can have different definitions around the world), and what exactly has gone into the calculations of that oil estimate.

Considerations like political motives, and what data might have been included (or even manipulated in some instances) should also be taken into account

Variables in the future may further increase the amount of oil we have left according to estimates (mining technology that gives us better access to resources, or makes extraction cheaper is one example)

Overall, we see according to some data that proven oil reserves have actually increased from 2008 to 2017

Saudi Aramco is currently one of the largest oil producers in the world

Different oil producers own and control production of the proven oil reserves spread around the different countries in the world

Using alternative energy/electricity sources, alternative transport methods, and developing new technology in relation to oil extraction and production/consumption, and energy efficiency, may be big variables and factors in the future of oil supply – just as a few examples

It’s also possible to create liquid fuels from natural gas

According to some sources, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia currently have the largest proven oil reserves. Other sources say that the US has the largest proven oil reserves when taking into consideration future likelihood of increased proven oil reserves

You can read more about how much coal we might have left, and how much natural gas we might have left in these guides.

 

How Much Oil Is Left In The World?

  • Total world proved oil reserves reached 1687.9 billion barrels at the end of 2013, sufficient to meet 53.3 years of global production

– jalopnik.com

 

How Much Longer (How Many Years) Will Oil Reserves Last – When Will We Run Out?

  • [Taking into consideration the current rate of oil production and current known oil reserves, we have about 50.7 years worth of oil reserves left]

– ourworldindata.org 

 

  • proven oil … reserves are equivalent to around 50 … years at current production levels

– worldcoal.org

 

  • [based on production rates and how fast crude oil reserves are diminishing … without taking into account future population growth … our known oil deposits will last until 2052]

– ecotricity.co.uk

 

Total Oil Reserves vs Recoverable Oil Reserves (also called ‘Proven Oil Reserves)

It’s important to distinguish between total oil reserves, and oil that is recoverable oil reserves, proven oil reserves, or producible (all three mean essentially the same thing).

If we take an oil well or reservoir for example, the total oil reserves include all of the oil in that well or reservoir. 

Recoverable oil reserves (also called proven or producible oil) includes all oil that:

  • Is of a particular quality or with particular characteristics
  • And, can be recovered with today’s technology and extraction techniques (sometimes called ‘technical access’)
  • And, is accessible (both physically, and geographically or politically)
  • And, is financially feasible to extract and produce under today’s economic conditions (at today’s oil price) 

 

It may include other factors too – but, it’s essentially oil that is practically and economically feasible to extract and produce.

Geological and engineering data may be used for example to determine proven/recoverable/producible oil reserves.

There can also be many classifications of the different types of oil reserves, and the same phrase can be interpreted or defined differently by different organisations around the world. 

 

For example:

  • … the term proved reserves is used very differently around the world.
  • When countries officially report proved oil reserves, some governments refer to the industry’s strict definition of commercially proved reserves, while other governments use definitions that are more in line with how geologists would apply the term, ie. proved by exploration activities rather than by development activities

– rystadenergy.com

 

When talking about oil estimations and totals, it’s important to specify how the oil is being categorized, it’s definition, and what is included in the calculations or estimates. 

 

Estimating How Much Oil Is Left Can Possess At Least Some Level Of Uncertainty

Estimating exactly how much oil is left can be nuanced, and can involve some degree of estimation.

Estimates are made based on varying levels/degrees of geologic certainty. And, estimates of specific reservoirs can grow over time as certainty and data on that reservoir grows.

Further to this:

  • New reserves of different fossil fuels can be found which increase the current reserve estimation totals. Although, these new reserves are usually small.
  • Countries may manipulate or adjust estimates for political reasons
  • And various other factors may be at play when estimating oil reserves

 

As one example, through June 2017 to June 2018:

  • … the US added close to 50 billion barrels [over this time period] and now holds an estimated 310 billion barrels of recoverable oil with current technologies, equal to 79 years of US oil production at present output levels.
  • This vast increase of estimated recoverable oil in the US over [this time] relates largely to a doubling of hydraulic fracturing operations in the Permian basin, where Rystad Energy also sees more reserves per well drilled, and to new areas and formations that have been geologically proved

– rystadenergy.com

 

It’s also worth reading this guide about why we may never run out of certain mined resources.

 

Is There Hope For The Future (What Will We Do) If We Run Out Of Oil?

If you refer to this chart, you can see that proven oil reserves have trended up since 2008. If we continue to be able to find new recoverable oil reserves, it will continue to extend our estimated amount of oil left to use.

Additionally, liquid fuels can be made from natural gas, which can increase supply further.

Beyond that …

Renewable energy sources and alternative energy sources like solar, wind, water, nuclear energy and others offer energy sources for the future separate to oil.

Specifically with vehicles, electric battery cars, hybrids, hydrogen cars and other alternate fuel cars are being developed.

It’s also possible in the future that new technology in the future may impact factors like the amount of recoverable oil.

 

Countries With The Largest Amount Of Proven Oil Reserves

Countries with the largest proven oil reserves (as of 2019) are:

  1. Venezuela (303.2 billion barrels or proven oil reserves – 17.9% of world total)
  2. Saudi Arabia
  3. Canada
  4. Iran
  5. Iraq
  6. Russian Federation
  7. Kuwait
  8. United Arab Emirates (97.8 billion barrels of proven oil reserves – 5.8% of world total)
  9. United States
  10. Libya
  11. Nigeria
  12. Kazakhstan
  13. China
  14. Qatar
  15. Brazil (12 Billion barrels of proven oil reserves – 0.8% of world total)

– usatoday.com

 

However, rystadenergy.com says that when considering ‘expected oil production from future discoveries as deemed likely’, the US leads the world in terms of recoverable oil. ‘In terms of already discovered oil, Saudi Arabia is still far ahead of all other countries [right now]’.

According to Rystad Energy via money.cnn.com – the US has 264 billion barrels of oil reserves including ‘existing fields, new projects, recent discoveries as well as projections in undiscovered fields … [and] More than half of America’s untapped oil is unconventional shale oil, according to Rystad. Shale oil is the previously-unreachable crude that, thanks to fracking and new technology, has reshaped the global energy landscape and vaulted the U.S. into the upper echelon of global oil producers’. When taking this into account, the top 5 countries are the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Iran.

The amount of undiscovered technically recoverable oil resources the US to be an additional 198 billion barrels (wikipedia.org)

 

Largest Oil Producers, & Who Owns The World’s Oil?

According to oilprice.com:

  • Saudi Aramco was the largest producer by far in 2018
  • The two largest US oil majors [are] ExxonMobil and Chevron
  • In total, US oil companies produce more than 15 percent of the world’s oil
  • Of the US oil majors, ExxonMobil and Chevron also have the largest proven oil reserves
  • Aramco, Rosneft, and PDVSA own majority of the world’s proven oil reserves 

 

Burning The Remaining Oil Reserves, & Potential Impact On Global Warming

Some sources indicate the potential impact of burning the remaining oil reserves on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change/global warming:

 

  • … we will have to leave between 65 to 80 percent of current known reserves untouched if we are to stand a chance of keeping average global temperature rise below our two-degrees global target

– ourworldindata.org

 

Sources

1. https://www.worldcoal.org/coal/where-coal-found

2. https://www.ecotricity.co.uk/our-green-energy/energy-independence/the-end-of-fossil-fuels

3. https://ourworldindata.org/how-long-before-we-run-out-of-fossil-fuels 

4. https://jalopnik.com/bp-says-the-world-only-has-53-years-of-oil-left-should-1602354842

5. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/05/22/largest-oil-reserves-in-world-15-countries-that-control-the-worlds-oil/39497945/

6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_reserves

7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_proven_oil_reserves

8. https://www.rystadenergy.com/newsevents/news/press-releases/united-states-recoverable-oil/

9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_reserves_in_the_United_States#:~:text=Proven%20oil%20reserves%20in%20the,US%20proven%20reserves%20since%201972

10. https://money.cnn.com/2016/07/05/investing/us-untapped-oil/index.html

11. https://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/How-Much-Oil-Does-The-US-Really-Own.html

12. https://www.discovermagazine.com/environment/why-well-never-run-out-of-oil

13. https://www.worldometers.info/oil/

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