Oil is a natural resource formed by the decay of organic matter over millions of years. And like many other natural resources, oil cannot be produced, only extracted where it already exists. Unlike every other natural resource, oil is the lifeblood of the global economy.
The world derives over a third of its total energy production from oil, more than any other source by far. As a result, the countries that control the world’s oil reserves often have disproportionate geopolitical and economic power.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the “BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2018” to identify the 15 countries with the most proven oil reserves. The countries on this list span five continents and control anywhere from 12.8 billion barrels of oil to 303.2 billion barrels of oil.
In most cases, oil has been an economic boon for the countries on this list. Often, due in large part to oil production, many of these places rank among the most productive countries in the world.
If mismanaged, however, oil wealth can also be a curse. Having a diversified economy is always prudent, and many countries on this list are overly dependent on their oil wealth. As a result, many have suffered economically since global oil prices fell precipitously from $115 a barrel in mid-2014 to less than $35 a barrel in early 2016. In one extreme case, the economic collapse triggered by an over-dependence on oil created a crisis so severe, it is now one of the 14 countries the U.S. Government does not want you to visit.
To identify the countries that control the world’s oil, 24/7 Wall St. ranked countries by 2017 proven oil reserves — those quantities that geological and engineering information indicates with reasonable certainty can be recovered in the future from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating conditions. proven oil reserves data came from “BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2018.” Reserves as a share of world total reserves and oil production in barrels also came from BP’s report. Each country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is based on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) for 2017 (chained to current International Dollars) and came from the International Monetary Fund. We also used information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and MIT Media Lab’s The Observatory of Economic Complexity.