The world’s 1.635 trillion barrels of proved oil reserves are not evenly distributed among the globe’s 216 nations. Just three — Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Canada — account for nearly a third of the total.
There are far more countries with no or very little oil than those countries with deposits that can be developed and used internally or exported. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), of the world’s 216 nations only 99 have any oil reserves at all. And only about 40 nations have proved reserves totaling more than a tiny 1 billion barrels.
Global consumption of crude oil grew from around 83.2 million barrels a day to 90.4 million in the 10-years from 2004 to 2013, according to the EIA. With the exceptions of 2008 and 2009, when the global financial crisis stifled economic growth in much of the world, oil consumption has been rising, but about 65% of the increase is from the developing economies of China and India. China consumed about 6.44 million barrels a day in 2004 and 10.12 million barrels a day in 2013, while India added about a million barrels a day of consumption in the same period.
About 80% of world oil consumption is attributable to transportation by road, rail, sea and air. As a transportation fuel, products derived from oil are difficult to replace due to their high energy content, their transportability and their relative safety.
As a fuel for generating electricity, oil’s role has largely been relegated to one of meeting peak demand for short periods, but there are some exceptions. Saudi Arabia, for instance, currently generates 100% its electricity by burning oil or natural gas. Japan, following its nuclear disaster in 2011, is another temporary exception.
Among many developed countries, oil consumption is falling, due in part to slow economic growth that tamps down demand for crude. Another contributor to slowing demand is more fuel-efficient motor vehicles. As for future demand projections, it is too early to know how much of the decline in consumption is due to structural changes like more fuel-efficient vehicles and how much to a weak global economy. The answer to those questions will indicate both the direction and the strength of crude oil demand in the years to come.
We have looked at 10 rich countries as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) that lack any significant amount of proved oil reserves. Data on GDP are drawn from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook October 2014 and the CIA World Factbook, while information on oil reserves and electricity generation comes from the EIA and data on consumption was taken from the 2014 edition of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.
Combined, the 10 nations on this list have about 1.67 billion barrels of proved reserves, enough to meet U.S. demand for about three months or global demand for a little more than two weeks. For all intents and purposes, that amounts to no oil.