Oil makes our world go ‘round. Literally? Well, no. But in an economic sense, oil is king, and drives the economies of many nations. And even though alternative energy sources are being researched and implemented, there’s still a specific niche that oil occupies in the global economy. Crude oil is the source of many of earth’s hydrocarbons, and together they form the basis for a variety of fuel products. From the car you drive to the park and ride, to the commuter train you ride into the city; from the bus you ride to the airport to the commercial jet you fly across the ocean, oil is powering your every move. The world’s a pretty big place, and rich oil reserves are scattered across its oceans, lakes, forests, and deserts. Geologically speaking, each area on planet Earth is not created equal– you’d better believe that some areas are much more rich for oil production.
Join us a we take a closer look at the world’s countries that have the top five oil reserves.
Venezuela: When many American’s hear the word “oil”, they immediately think “The Middle East”. But many Americans could not be more wrong. This coastal South American Country is leads the pack with over 297 billion barrels of oil reserves. Venezuelan oil is so plentiful and influential that it is actually a founding member of OPEC, (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Communities). Venezuela has been drilling for about 100 years, and her oil accounts for about 11 percent of the United State’s Oil imports. In fact, almost half of the government’s revenues come from oil. Talk about “oil rich”.
Saudi Arabia: This Middle Eastern Nation is runner up for the Oil King crown, with about 265 billion barrels of oil reserves. Oil is such a huge part of of Saudi Arabian history that it played a key role in the formation of it’s modern economy. Prior to the discovery of oil reserves in 1938, Saudi Arabia was one of the poorest countries in the world. By the early 40’s the American company Aramco began controlling and developing the oil fields in Saudi Arabia. After World War II, the revenue gained from her precious oil catapulted Saudi Arabia into the modern age. Under the reigning king, Khalid, Saudi society was marked by rapid advancements on societal, economic, and educational level By the mid 1970’s Saudi Arabia became the world’s dominant oil producer, and in 1980 it took full control of Aramco from the United States. Predictably, it is now one of the richest countries.
Canada: Shout out to our neighbors in the great big North! Canada. A distant third to runner up Saudi Arabia, Canada controls about 173.1 billion barrel of oil reserves. A whopping 95% of this oil is located in the oil sands of Alberta. Oil sands are an unusual way for oil to appear, and Canada has an unusually high number of such sands. Basically, an oil sand is a naturally occuring area of land that is a mix of sand, clay, water, and a very thick form of petroleum called bitumen. It’s so thick that it can’t even flow unless it’s heated! There’s a rich history of the reserves that predates the modern usage. The people of the First Nations actually used the bitumen deposits to waterproof their canoes, a practice that dates back to prehistoric times!
Iran: This large country in the Middle East is packing about 154 billion barrels of oil reserves. It’s a workhorse in the economic development of the country, and has significant impacts on the annual budget and public works projects. Oil was first discovered in Persia back in the early 1900’s and the British asserted control over the countries resources, compensating the Persian government £4 for every ton of oil it produced, and denying the country any control over it’s own exports. By the 1950’s however, the Persian government began to nationalize the oil industry. During the Persian revolution, it canceled all international oil agreements. Currently, Iran manufactures a lot of the tools and equipment that is used in the oil industry, and now has the capability to conduct deep-water drilling.
Iraq: At 141 billion barrels, Iraq is the fifth largest producer of the world’s oil. Interestingly, domestic and civil unrest over the last 15 years has seriously impacted the collection of data on all things oil related. Thus, much of the data are estimates based on extrapolation from 30 year old data! Although it has a large number of reserves, conflict in the country has impeded it’s modernization. Currently, Iraq cannot meet hydrocarbon production numbers and falls short on export expectations. Many decades of war caused much of the countries oil wells and drilling infrastructure to fall into disrepair, however, there is believed to be unexplored territory that contains yet even more vast reserves.
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