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Top ten countries with world’s largest oil reserves

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Since the drilling of first oil, the commodity has emerged as an important part of our life. It has been used as fuel for our transport, a fuel to generate electricity to light our homes, run factories and machines, a raw material to produce fertiliser to increase food production and produce plastic which is used in wide range of things we use in daily life. Since the emergence of oil industry in mid-nineteenth century, the important energy source has also triggered wars, reshaped geo-politics with countries competing to control it. Here is the list of top countries in with proven oil reserves.

Here is the list of countries having the largest oil reserves:


Venezuela has the largest oil reserves across the world, with more than 300 billion barrels of proven reserves. In 2011, Venezuela surpassed Saudi Arabia to top the list of countries having the largest oil reserves. However, the development of this huge reserves has taken a backseat due to political unrest over the past few years. The country also has large deposits of oil sands like those present in Canada. Due to their viscous nature, Venezuela's Orinoco tar sands can be produced from conventional methods.

Saudi Arabia

Though the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia held the world’s largest oil reserves for several decades, the country has slipped to second spot with 269 billion barrels of proven oil reserves as of 1 January 2016. Its reserves are estimated to account for a fifth of global conventional reserves. A significant part of its reserves is present in few of its very large oil fields. The country’s reserves are expected to exceed that of Venezuela if it increases its exploration activities.












Image: Khurais Oil Processing Facility Saudi Arabia February 4, 2017. Photo courtesy of Planet Labs, Inc/Wikipedia.


With proven oil reserves of 171 billion barrels, Canada stands at the third position in the oil holdings list. Oil sands deposits in the province of Alberta account for more than 95% of the country’s reserves.The province also holds a considerable amount of its conventional oil reserves.Most of the Canada’s oil exports are sent to the US.Besides, its oil sands are a key contributor to growth in supply of liquid fuel in the world in the past few years.


International sanctions on Iran due to its nuclear activities has weighed on the country’s energy sector, hitting its oil production. The country has an estimated proven oil reserves of 157.8 billion barrels as of 1 January 2016. Iran’s oil reserves are expected to last for nearly a century if it continues its production at 2006 rates. Over the past few decades, its production has been hampered by political unrest, war with Iraq, and lack of significant investments, among others.


With oil reserves of 143 billion barrels, Iran occupies fifth position in the oil holdings list. The country’s energy sector has been hit by military occupation and civil unrest, and unexplored region in the nation is estimated to have a potential for vast oil reserves. Sanctions and two Gulf Warsalso inflicted a severe blow to Iraq’s oil infrastructure. Basra, Baghdad, and Ramadi are the cities that hold much of the country’s reserves. According to World Bank, Iran needs an annual investment of $1bn to continue its current oil production rate.











Image: Iran occupies fifth position in the oil holdings list. Photo: courtesy of num_skyman/


Despite being a small country, Kuwait is a significant contributor to the world’s oil reserves.Being the third oil producer among Organization of the Petroleum Exporting (OPEC) countries, Kuwait’s holds 8% of the global oil reserves. The country has 104 billion barrels, with about 70% of them located in in the Burgan field, the second largest oil field in the world. Kuwait has been producing from the field since 1938.


Russia has 80 billion barrels of oil reserves, with a major part of its them located in Siberian plains. Its production slumped after the collapse of Soviet Union but later rebounded due to privatization of the energy industry. With the country continuing its exploration activity, it is expected to boost its oil reserves in arctic waters and ice.











Image: Russia has 80 billion barrels of oil reserves. Photo: courtesy of suwatpo/

United Arab Emirates

As of 1 January 2016, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has 98 billion barrels of oil reserves, with an estimated 66 billion barrels in Zakum field, which is the third largest in the Middle East. Over 90% of the UAE reserves are held Abu Dhabi, followed by Dubai and Sharjah.


With oil reserves of 48.3 billion barrels, the country has largest oil holdings in Africa. A large part of the region, where there is potential for finding new oil reserves, remains unexplored in the country. The exploration activity in Libya was hit by sanctions against overseas oil companies. 


Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa, with 37 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.

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