Oil has had a chaotic year so far due to the coronavirus pandemic hitting the world’s demand for crude, with prices at one point prices plunging below zero in a historic upset for markets.
As the coronavirus crisis recedes demand may well return, but some analysts and industry officials believe that it could take over a year for a full recovery to pre-coronavirus levels.
In the face of this crisis, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, agreed on a historic deal in April to remove around 9.7 million barrels per day of oil output from world markets.
This deal, which came into effect on May 1, planned for a gradual reduction in the cuts throughout the year, although sources have recently suggested that the oil exporters club may extend the full cuts to the end of 2020.
Here are the top 10 countries in the world with the biggest oil reserves according to OPEC’s Annual Statistical Bulletin in 2019:
1. Venezuela – 302.8 billion barrels
Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, but the development of its energy sector has been complicated by the country’s political crisis in recent years. In one striking example earlier this month, tanks at a Venezuelan oil facility burst, leaking crude for four days. Workers blamed a lack of investment and poor maintenance of the country’s oil infrastructure.
2. Saudi Arabia – 267 billion barrels
The Kingdom is home to state energy giant Saudi Aramco, which successfully listed on the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) last year, becoming the world’s most valuable company. Aramco is also the world’s most profitable company, and pumps more oil on a daily basis than any other producer.
3. Iran – 145 billion barrels
Iran’s economy has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic amid a broadening recession. US sanctions on the country’s oil industry have also hit the sector particularly hard, drying up foreign investment and disrupting major business deals. In January, the Institute of International Finance (IFF), a global trade group of financial institutions, estimated that Iran’s crude oil exports had dropped over 85 percent to 0.4 million barrels per day (bpd) from highs of 2.8 million bpd in May 2018.
4. Iraq – 145 billion barrels
Iraq’s crude oil revenues fell by half in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the country’s oil ministry. The crisis raises a particular problem for Iraq as its dwindling reserves mean officials are turning to deeply unpopular austerity measures, with the government considering cuts to social benefits and the country’s bloated public sector.
5. Kuwait – 101.5 billion barrels
Kuwait joined Saudi Arabia and the UAE in over complying with the OPEC+ output cut agreement, meaning the countries are cutting output by a greater amount than had been agreed. Experts have suggested that this move will likely prevent global oil storage capacity from being completely exhausted – a situation that would cause dramatic turmoil.
6. United Arab Emirates – 97.8 billion barrels
The UAE emirate of Abu Dhabi is home to the vast majority of the country’s oil reserves. Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and Group CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, ADNOC said earlier this month that oil markets would rebalance over time, noting that demand will return as the coronavirus pandemic recedes but that “this will take time.”
7. Russia – 80 billion barrels
Russia is an important ally of OPEC and part of the OPEC+ group. In March, the country’s decision to not support oil output cuts in the face of falling demand due to the coronavirus pandemic precipitated a price war. Russia has since reversed course and joining in cutting output.
8. Libya – 48.4 billion barrels
Libya is home to Africa’s largest proven oil reserves, but the industry has been pummeled by the country’s ongoing civil war. State oil producer National Oil Corporation (NOC) reported losses nearing $5 billion earlier this week as a result of the closure of oil assets by General Khalifa Haftar’s forces earlier this year.
The closure denies a key source of revenue to the Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Prime Minister Fayes al-Sarraj and backed by Turkey with links to extremist militias. Funds from oil production have previously been used by the GNA to buy weapons.
9. United States – 47.1 billion barrels
US oil production has skyrocketed in recent years as shale oil fracking technology has allowed the companies to access reserves. Shale oil companies, however, have been pushed to the brink by the coronavirus crisis. Production has been significantly cut, but some producers have been bullish about the situation, noting that an oil price of merely $30 per barrel would be enough to start fracking new wells.
10. Nigeria – 37 billion barrels
Home to Africa’s second largest reserve of oil, Nigeria’s oil and gas industry accounts for around 86 percent of the country’s total export revenue, OPEC statistics show. In late April, state oil company Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) delayed publishing its export plans, as the country moved to cut production in line with the OPEC+ agreement.
Canada: Oil sands exception
OPEC’s statistics note Canada with only 4.4 billion barrels of crude reserves. However, this number does include the country’s oil sands reserves. Canada’s oil sand operations, the largest in the world, have also been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Analysts earlier estimated that the country’s operators would need to close down between 1 million and 1.5 million barrels per day of oil production.
The US Energy Information Administration estimated in 2016 that including oil sands, Canada’s reserves would be around 170.9 billion barrels of oil.