With 1.572 trillion barrels of recoverable oil currently on the planet, there is enough oil and gas on the planet to guarantee supply for a long time to come, and no one knows exactly how much oil is under the surface.
1.572 trillion barrels of global recoverable oil reserves on Jan. 1, 2022
At the end of June 2022, BP released the 2022 edition of the Statistical Review of World Energy, the 71st edition of this report since it was first published in 1951. The Statistical Review of World Energy, an authoritative report recognized both inside and outside the energy industry, contains much of the data that is the industry standard. However, it is very unfortunate that both the report itself and the downloadable data tables available on BP’s website are missing data on global oil reserves in 2021.
On June 30, 2022, Rystad Energy, a leading energy consultancy, released its own oil resource data report, stating that global recoverable oil reserves are estimated at 1.572 trillion barrels on January 1, 2022.
According to R&C Energy, recoverable oil reserves refer to the “technically recoverable residual crude oil and condensate”, which includes the amount of oil discovered in existing fields and the amount of oil that may be discovered in the future.
Of the 1.572 trillion barrels of technically recoverable oil reserves, only about 1.2 trillion barrels will be economically recoverable by 2100 at an oil price of $50 per barrel.
In the longer term, Rexroth Energy’s estimate of undiscovered oil reserves was revised down to 350 billion barrels from 1 trillion barrels in 2018 due to rapidly declining investor interest in exploration exposures, leading to a reduction in oil and gas leasing on government lands.
How many years can proven oil reserves be produced? In 2022, there is a significant difference in the number of years of production from proven oil reserves in OPEC and non-OPEC countries, according to a report by Rexceed Energy, which revises proven oil reserves. Proven oil reserves in all OPEC countries are expected to continue producing for more than 10 years, ranging from just over 10 years for Iraq’s proven reserves to more than 14 years for Saudi Arabia. Among non-OPEC countries, Mexico ranks last among countries with less than five years of proven oil reserves, while Canada’s proven oil reserves are expected to continue producing for nearly 20 years.
Where is all the oil? As for recoverable oil resources, Rexroth Energy believes that Saudi Arabia tops the list with 275 billion barrels, followed by the United States with 193 billion barrels. The top five, also include Russia with 137 billion barrels, Canada with 118 billion barrels and Iraq with 105 billion barrels.
South America is a fast-growing region for oil discovery and production, with Brazil in first place with 71 billion barrels of recoverable oil reserves, ten times the proven reserves, but down 4 billion barrels from last year. In Europe, recoverable reserves in the United Kingdom and Norway both fell by 1 billion barrels and now stand at 10 billion barrels and 17 billion barrels, respectively.
Contrary to the trend of declining oil resources in most countries, discovered oil reserves in the United States increased by 8 billion barrels.
According to Raycom Energy, global recoverable oil reserves on January 1, 2022 are 152 billion barrels less than they were on January 1, 2021, a decrease of about 9%. the reason for the decline in global recoverable oil reserves in 2021 is, first, the production of 30 billion barrels of oil; second, a significant decline in the number of resources discovered, up to 120 billion barrels. Among these, the decline in U.S. offshore oil resources is one of the biggest reasons, with 20 billion barrels of oil left in the ground, thanks in large part to the ban on oil and gas leasing on U.S. federal lands.
In an annex to the 2022 edition of the World Energy Statistics Review “Methodology”, BP notes that the 2022 global oil reserves data has not been updated due to process improvements.
More and more global oil resources are being produced
Although there is no data published on the remaining global proven oil reserves in 2021, we can check the data table downloaded from BP’s official website to find out the data on the remaining global proven oil reserves from 1980 to 2020. Carefully studying this data sheet, on the question of how much oil is left in the world, we can conclude that there are more and more oil resources in the world, and this conclusion can be explained in the following three aspects.
First, the absolute amount of remaining global proved oil reserves is getting larger
Global remaining proved oil reserves were 682.6 billion barrels in 1980, increasing to 1 trillion barrels in 1989, 1.53 trillion barrels in 2009, 1.72 trillion barrels in 2017 and 1.73 trillion barrels in 2020.
From this figure, we can see that the remaining global proven oil reserves in 2020, are 1.05 trillion barrels more than in 1980. the remaining global proven oil reserves in 2020, are 2.54 times more than in 1980.
Of these, the remaining global proved oil reserves in 2020, an increase of 431.5 billion barrels from 2000, and the size of the remaining global proved oil reserves in 2020 is 1.33 times larger than in 2000.
Second, the amount of oil resources in the rest of the world, with the exception of Europe, continues to increase
Globally, the only region where remaining proved oil reserves have declined is Europe. in 1980, Europe’s remaining proved oil reserves were 16.6 billion barrels, and while there were small increases during the mid-1990s and in the years leading into the 21st century, they declined to 13.6 billion barrels in 2020, a decrease of 3 billion barrels from 1980, a decline of 18.07%.
Slightly better than Europe, the remaining proved oil reserves in Asia Pacific did not decline, but only slightly increased. in 1980, the remaining proved oil reserves in Asia Pacific were 33.6 billion barrels, and in 2020, they were 45.2 billion barrels, an increase of 11.6 billion barrels, an increase of 34.52%. From a country-specific perspective, the increase in remaining proved oil reserves in the Asia Pacific region mainly comes from China, where the remaining proved oil reserves were 13.4 billion barrels in 1980 and increased to 26 billion barrels in 2020, an increase of 12.6 billion barrels, or 94.03%. total, which means that the remaining proved oil reserves of other countries in the Asia-Pacific region combined are declining during this period.
Statistically, the top three regions with the largest increase in remaining proved oil reserves worldwide are the Middle East, Central and South America and North America.
The Middle East is the world’s richest region in terms of oil resources and the region with the largest increase in remaining proved oil reserves. in 1980, the Middle East’s remaining proved oil reserves were 362.4 billion barrels, increasing to 835.9 billion barrels in 2020, an increase of 473.5 billion barrels, or 130.66%, accounting for 45.1% of the increase in global remaining proved oil reserves over the same period.
In recent years, Central and South America has been rumored to discover a large amount of oil and gas resources, and this region is a hot spot for global oil and gas exploration and development. 1980, the remaining proved oil reserves in Central and South America was 26.3 billion barrels, which increased to 323.4 billion barrels in 2020, an increase of 297.1 billion barrels, an increase of 1129.66%, accounting for the increase in the remaining proved oil reserves in the world in the same period In 1980, Central and South America ranked second to last in the world’s remaining proved oil reserves, just above the European region, but rose to second place in 2020, ranking just behind the Middle East.
North America, consisting of Canada, Mexico and the United States, is a region rich in oil resources and highly exploited for oil and gas, especially the U.S. Among them, the remaining proved oil reserves in North America were 123.3 billion barrels in 1980, increasing to 242.9 billion barrels in 2020, an increase of 119.6 billion barrels, or 97%, accounting for 11.39% of the increase in the remaining proved oil reserves worldwide during the same period. of 11.39%.
The increase in remaining proved oil reserves in North America originated primarily in Canada, where remaining proved oil reserves were 39.5 billion barrels in 1980 and increased to 168.1 billion barrels in 2020, an increase of 128.6 billion barrels, primarily from 1999 when oil sands reserves were identified.
Although it has entered a highly mature stage of oil and gas production, the success of the shale revolution has led to a relatively large increase in remaining proved oil reserves in the U.S. during the same period. in 1980, the remaining proved oil reserves in the U.S. were 36.5 billion barrels, increasing to 68.8 billion barrels in 2020, an increase of 32.3 billion barrels, mainly due to the large unconventional shale oil resources identified from 2012.
In North America, only Mexico has seen a relatively large decline in oil resources, with remaining proved oil reserves in 2020 falling from 47.2 billion barrels in 1980 to only 6.1 billion barrels, a significant reduction of 41.1 billion barrels.
In addition to the above three regions, the remaining proved oil reserves of the CIS countries have also increased significantly. The CIS countries, formerly known as the former Soviet Union, had 67 billion barrels of remaining proved oil reserves in the former Soviet Union in 1980. in 1991, after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, countries such as Kazakhstan became independent and a large amount of potential oil and gas resources were discovered and put into development. in 2020, the remaining proved oil reserves of the CIS countries were 146.2 billion barrels, an increase of 79.2 billion barrels over the former Soviet Union. in addition to the increase in Russia oil resources, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have also increased their remaining proven oil reserves by nearly 40 billion barrels, making them important emerging oil and gas producing countries in the world.
Third, global oil can be produced for an increasingly long period of time
In the study of world oil issues, when discussing oil resources and reserves, we generally take January 1 of the calendar year as the time point, and divide the remaining proved oil reserves of the previous year by the oil production of the same year to arrive at the number of years that the remaining proved oil reserves can be produced, that is, the remaining proved oil reserves of the world on January 1 of a certain year, and how many more years can be produced, so as to measure whether the global oil resources are abundant and whether the future oil production can be guaranteed to be carried out normally.
According to BP’s statistics, the world’s remaining proved oil reserves in 1980 were 682.6 billion barrels (since there is no data on the world’s remaining proved oil reserves in 1979, we take the 1980 data as the basis), and the world’s oil production in 1979 was 66.067 million barrels per day, which is equivalent to about 24.115 billion barrels per year. Thus, on January 1, 1980, the recoverable life of the world’s remaining proved oil reserves was 28.3 years, which is less than 30 years.
In recent years, with the increasing production of natural gas, the amount of natural gas liquids such as ethane and propane separated from natural gas through the processing of natural gas separation plants has been increasing, and natural gas separation plant liquids are generally light, high-quality petroleum resources. Since 2000, BP has refined the classification and statistics of world oil production by separating statistics on the production of crude oil, condensate, etc. and the production of natural gas separation plant liquids from oil production. For example, in 2000, the total world oil production was 74.539 million barrels per day, of which 68.426 million barrels per day were produced from crude oil and condensate and 6.112 million barrels per day from natural gas separation plant liquids. In the “Methodology” annex to the 2022 edition of the World Energy Statistics Review, BP states that the oil production data used to calculate the global oil recoverable life is the total world oil production including crude oil, shale oil, oil sands, condensate and natural gas separation plant liquids, but excluding biofuels, coal, natural gas and other synthetic fuels, and refinery processing inventory.
In 1999, the remaining global proved oil reserves were 1.28 trillion barrels, and the total world oil production in that year was 71.158 million barrels per day, which translates into about 26.104 billion barrels per year. Thus, on January 1, 2000, the recoverable life of the world’s remaining proved oil reserves was 49 years, an increase of 20 years from 1980.
In 2019, the remaining global proved oil reserves are 1.73 trillion barrels, and the total world oil production in that year is 94.916 million barrels per day, which translates into approximately 34.644 billion barrels per year. Thus, on January 1, 2020, the recoverable life of the remaining global proved oil reserves will be 50 years, one year more than in 2000 and 21 years more than in 1980.
However, according to Rexroth Energy’s statistics, the global recoverable oil reserves in 2021 are 1.572 trillion barrels; according to BP’s statistics, the world oil production in 2021 is 89.877 million barrels per day, which translates to about 32.805 billion barrels per year, then on January 1, 2022, the recoverable life of the remaining global proven oil reserves is 47.9 years, which is not only lower than the 2020 recoverable life, but also has fallen below 50 years.
Here, it is important to specify the concept that oil production has been ongoing around the world since the birth of the modern oil industry in 1859, during which the total world oil production has been increasing for a variety of reasons, although production in individual countries and regions may have been reduced or stopped. According to the statistics released by BP, from 2000 to 2020, the total cumulative world oil production is 648,323 million barrels, with an average annual production of 30,873 million barrels. This means that the world’s remaining proven oil reserves have continued and increased relatively significantly over the past 20 years since 2000, after producing an average of more than 30.8 billion barrels of oil per year.
From a few key concepts to an understanding of global oil resources
In the above two parts of this paper, we have dealt with two concepts, Recoverable oil and Proved reserves, in fact, the translation of these two terms, we just choose the most common and usual term from the perspective of easy understanding. From a professional point of view, some of the concepts involved in the field of oil and gas resources are much more complex than these. Based on the “Petroleum Resources Explanation” annex to the 2022 edition of BP’s World Energy Statistics Review, the following important concepts have been retranslated and briefly explained in accordance with the customs of our country and the world oil industry. In the notes of the annex, BP states that the definitions of these concepts are mainly from the Society of Petroleum Engineers.
BP makes it clear that no one knows exactly how much oil is under the surface or how much may be produced in the future, and that all figures are, at best, educated estimates. Within the broad concept of oil “reserves”, there are several key concepts, the most important of which are proven, probable and possible reserves.
Estimated Ultimate Recovery (EUR)
Oil and gas reservoirs contain a limited but unknown amount of oil resources, and the expected ultimate recoverable reserves are an estimate of the total amount of oil that can be recovered from the original reserves, which is a subjective judgment formed using incomplete information. While some believe that the expected ultimate recoverable reserves are determined by the laws of geology and physics, in practice, estimates of expected ultimate recoverable reserves change as knowledge grows, technology advances and the economic environment evolves.
Projected ultimate recoverable reserves, which are usually divided into three main categories: cumulative production, including economic and potentially uneconomic discovered reserves, and undiscovered resources. Cumulative production refers to the total production of all oil up to a specific date. Discovered reserves, which are usually classified as proved reserves, probable reserves and possible reserves.
While there is no single, universally accepted technical definition of proved reserves, the broadest consensus is that “the amount of oil that can be expected to be economically recovered by development of a known reservoir under specified conditions from a specified date.” Proven reserves are usually defined in terms of a 90% probability that 90% or more of a field’s proven reserves can be produced over its life. In this sense, proved reserves (also referred to as 1P) are a conservative estimate of a field’s cumulative future production.
BP notes that the confirmed reserves data in the Statistical Review of World Energy, which primarily uses a combination of official sources and third-party data, may use different probability quantities, and BP makes every effort to keep the basis for these figures consistent. However, BP cannot guarantee that the probabilities are all 90 percent.
Probable reserves, also known as “indicated” reserves or 2P reserves, means that more than 50% of the reserves are technically and economically producible.
Probable reserves, also known as “inferred” reserves, are sometimes referred to as 3P reserves. These are reserves that cannot be considered “probable” reserves at this time, but are expected to have a high technical and economic probability of production (although less than 50%). Typically, a 10% probability is used for 3P reserves.
In general, over time, a portion of a field’s probable and possible reserves tend to be converted to proved reserves, as the uncertainty of remaining recoverable reserves is reduced as the field produces, a phenomenon known as “reserve growth.
Similarly, as the information, technology and economic environment changes, oil reserves will change from “uneconomic” to “economic” throughout the life cycle of a field from exploration and discovery to production, allowing development decisions to be made.
Thus, to classify petroleum resources as reserves, “they must be based on development projects, discovery (information), recoverability (technology), commercial (economics) and surplus (as of a given date).” While it is generally accepted that technological progress is unidirectional, the information and economic environment can influence the classification of petroleum reserves in both directions.
For a given field, the initial ratio of reserves to oil production is often referred to as the recovery rate. Recovery rates vary widely from country to country, geologically and technologically, and may change with the history and techno-economics of extraction. In the UK, for example, the expected recovery rate for a continental shelf field is 43%, meaning that 57% of the initially identified resource quantity will remain in the ground.
Recovery may also increase over time if investments are made in secondary recovery techniques that alter reservoir or resource characteristics, such as gas or water injection to increase reservoir pressure.
It can be observed that the trend of increasing recovery rates over time, and thus greater use of limited resources, is an example of reserve growth and is the main reason why agencies such as the USGS, estimate the eventual growth of recoverable oil resources over time.
After explaining a few important concepts about petroleum resources above, there seems little need to delve into how much petroleum resources there really are in the world. However, from the point of view of general knowledge dissemination, it is still advisable to have an idea of the number, otherwise people may feel unsatisfied or discontented.
Theoretically, how much of the earth’s oil resources we can extract has been the subject of endless and inconclusive debate among various experts. A more popular view is that the world’s original geological reserves of conventional oil are 4.5 trillion barrels, and the original geological reserves of heavy oil and bitumen are 9.5 trillion barrels. Of these, more than 1.1 trillion barrels of conventional oil have been extracted and consumed, and assuming that the conventional oil recovery rate can reach 45%, then the remaining recoverable amount of conventional oil is about 0.925 trillion barrels; assuming that the final recovery rate of heavy oil and bitumen is 25%, then the final recoverable resource of heavy oil and bitumen is 2.375 trillion barrels. Thus, in total, the total recoverable resources of conventional oil, heavy oil, and bitumen on earth, is 3.3 trillion barrels.
In the 2013 edition of the World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency puts the final amount of the world’s conventional recoverable oil resources at 3.3 trillion barrels, of which 1.136 trillion barrels, or about 34%, have already been produced, leaving 2.2 trillion barrels of recoverable conventional oil resources; if natural gas liquids and unconventional oil resources are added, the world’s remaining recoverable oil resources would double. Of these 2.2 trillion barrels of remaining recoverable conventional oil resources, 40% have been proven (excluding oil already produced), 30% are addable in existing fields, and 30% remain undiscovered.
Therefore, a comprehensive assessment of various aspects shows that the total recoverable world oil resources are about 5 trillion barrels, which can be produced for the world for more than 150 years based on the world oil production of 89.877 million barrels per day (about 32.805 billion barrels per year) in 2021.
More importantly, the reason why there is a constant debate on how much oil is available on the earth is that, in addition to technical capability and level of awareness, there is an important theoretical question of where the earth’s oil and gas resources actually come from. At present, the mainstream view in academia is the theory of bio-oil formation. However, in recent years, some scientists have proposed the abiogenic theory of oil formation, which suggests that there is a lot of carbon within the earth’s crust, some of which exists naturally in the form of hydrocarbons. The results of these two theories differ greatly. If we believe in the biogenic theory of oil formation, then the oil and gas resources on earth must be limited; if we believe in the abiogenic theory of oil formation, then the oil and gas resources on earth will certainly be very abundant, and our future generations will be assured of abundant oil and gas resources.
The turbulent international oil market since the 1970s has taught us that no matter what theories we believe in, global oil and gas resources are sufficiently secure for a very long time to come as long as we firmly believe in the technological progress of human society. However, the key issue is that there must be sufficient capital investment to turn possible oil reserves into proven reserves and to build corresponding production, transportation and processing facilities, etc. Only in this way can the stability of the international oil market be guaranteed and oil and gas resources can be made to better serve humanity. That is why, in the face of the current rising international oil prices, the United States and many other oil-consuming countries in the world asked Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries to increase oil production, Saudi Arabia and many other countries and OPEC officials almost unanimously pointed out that it is the lack of investment that led to the world’s oil production can not keep up with the growth of demand, only to increase investment in order to avoid greater future international oil market turmoil.
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