The 17 Countries Sitting On The Most Valuable Energy Reserves
Politicians and activists may love to talk about renewable energy sources, but in today’s world fossil fuels are still king. Indeed, as technology has developed in recent years, previously unreachable oil and gas reserves, like shale gas, have become huge sources of industry.Using data from British Petroleum’s 2013 statistical review of world energy, we calculated the countries with the largest reserves in three key fossil fuel categories—oil, coal, and natural gas.
We then calculated the total value of the reserves by using current global prices. For oil, we used the current Brent Crude Oil price on Bloomberg Markets. For natural gas, we averaged BP’s 2013 prices for Japan, United States and Germany to accommodate for the diverse world market. For coal, we used the World Bank’s 2013 trading price for Australian coal, which is commonly used as a benchmark for global markets.
While the data is imprecise, our ranking reveals which countries control the most energy. As developing economies like China and India expand and fossil fuel supplies dwindle, those reserves will be more important than ever.
A general view of Tiguentourine Gas Plant in In Amenas, 994 miles southeast of Algiers.
12.2 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#17)
159.1 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#10)
$3.4 trillion value at current prices
Algeria is Africa’s largest natural gas producer and second largest oil producer. Crude oil production has stagnated in recent years and natural gas production has declined. In response, the Algerian parliament has introduced fiscal incentives to lure foreign companies to new ventures, specifically in offshore exploration and shale gas. Foreign investment has been slow, in large part due to security concerns. The attack on the In Amenas gas facility in January 2013 raised those fears again, causing Algeria to increase its security presence at all facilities.
An oil refinery in Zawia, west of Tripoli. Libya is stepping up fuel imports, with four tankers queuing at one port as the OPEC producer’s second-largest refinery is running at only half its capacity due to oilfield strikes. The government has struggled to keep the 120,000-bpd refinery in Zawiya operating since protesters in October closed the El Sharara oilfield that feeds it.
48 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#9)
54.6 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#19)
$6 trillion value at current prices
Libya holds the largest proven crude oil reserves and the fourth largest proven natural gas reserves in Africa. The civil war in 2011 severely impacted oil production and exports, causing the economy to collapse. It has since begun to recover, though the energy sector has still been plagued by protests, strikes, and civil unrest, which interrupt production. Oil and natural gas account for nearly 96% of the total government revenue.
Workers drill at an open cast coal field at Dhanbad district in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. With oil and gas output disappointing and hydropower at full throttle, Asia’s third-largest economy still relies on coal for most of its vast energy needs. About 75 percent of India’s coal demand is met by domestic production.
5.7 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#22)
47 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#20)
60,600 million tons of proven coal reserves (#5)
$6.5 trillion value at current prices
India is the fourth largest energy consumer in the world, trailing the United States, China, and Russia. Currently, India is not able to consistently meet domestic energy demands, which makes securing energy sources one of India’s top priorities. India’s petroleum minister recently announced an action plan to make India energy independent by 2030, through increased hydrocarbon production, coalbed methane, and shale gas. Currently, India’s largest energy source is coal.
A Chinese worker of Asia Gas Pipeline (AGP) walks along the pipe of the Kazakh stretch of the new 1,833-kilometre (1,139-mile) Turkmenistan-China pipeline at Otar gas station, some 130 kilometres (82 miles) outside Almaty, Kazakhstan.
30 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#12)
45.7 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#22)
33,600 million tons of proven coal reserves (#8)
$6.8 trillion value at current prices
Kazakhstan produces approximately 1.64 million barrels of oil per day. Production has continued to grow in recent years thanks to the development of its massive Tengiz, Karachaganak, and Kashagan fields. Since Kazakhstan’s independence in 1991, there has been an influx of foreign investment, which has helped develop the fields. Kazakhstan is currently in the process of upgrading its pipelines to accommodate more export routes from the Kashagan oil field, especially to China.
A view of the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Company (NLNG) near Finima village, during an aerial tour by the Royal Dutch Shell company, in Bonny on March 22, 2013.
37.2 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#10)
182 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#9)
$6.8 trillion value at current prices
Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa and the world’s fourth largest exporter of liquefied natural gas. It also has the largest natural gas reserves in Africa, but production has been limited by instability. There are daily supply disruptions that often result in outages as large as 500,000 barrels per day. Oil theft, aging infrastructure, and poor maintenance are also large issues in the Nigerian energy sector. International companies such as Shell, ExxonMobil, and Chevron all have large stakes in the Nigerian energy sector and are leading major development projects in coming years.
The sun sets behind Shell’s Clyde refinery in Sydney. Australia is set to become Asia’s biggest importer of fuels, opening up trading opportunities in one of the world’s most profitable energy markets.
3.9 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#25)
132.8 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#11)
76,400 million tons of proven coal reserves (#4)
$9 trillion value at current prices
Australia is rich in lucrative commodities, such as fossil fuels and uranium. It is a net hydrocarbon exporter, exporting over 70 percent of its total energy production. Australia’s political stability, transparency, and proximity to Asia makes it highly attractive to foreign companies. Foreign investment would help develop energy infrastructure and create more efficient energy production.
AP Photo/David Gray, Pool
Turkmenistan President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, left, listens to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during their talk in Beijing Wednesday on Nov. 23, 2011. Berdymukhamedov was in China on an official visit to discuss Turkmenistan’s plan to boost natural gas deliveries by two-thirds to energy-hungry China.
0.6 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#28)
618.1 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#4)
$9.7 trillion value at current prices
Despite Turkmenistan’s large natural gas reserves, it’s development has been limited due to insufficient pipeline infrastructure. The country has tried to mitigate that issue by creating a more business-friendly environment that allows foreign companies to take on joint-ventures with the state-run oil and natural gas companies.
Kuwaiti Control Operator Nasser Athbi works at the new Gathering Center-24 in the northern oil fields of Sabriya. The Center, with a capacity of 165,000 barrels a day, was destroyed by invading Iraqi forces in 1990 and went back into operation in 2010.
101.5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#6)
63 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#18)
$11.8 trillion value at current prices
Despite having the second smallest land area among OPEC countries, Kuwait exports the third largest volume of oil, making it the world’s tenth largest oil producer. Kuwait’s economy is dependent on petroleum exports, which make up almost half of its gross domestic product. The entire oil sector is owned by the government of Kuwait, under a constitutional ban of foreign ownership of its resources. Kuwait has recently begun to develop natural gas fields in order to diversify its economy.
Gas storage tanks are seen at the construction site of Beijing Jingxi Gas-fired Thermal Power Co Ltd, which will be used to replace the old coal-fired power plants, in Beijing.
17.3 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#14)
109.3 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#13)
11,4500 million tons of proven coal reserves (#3)
$13.2 trillion value at current prices
As the most populous country in the world and a rapidly developing economy, China is the largest energy consumer and producer in the world. The sheer size of its market has made China extremely influential in the world energy trade. Natural gas production is increasing in the country, but coal remains China’s primary energy source. China currently accounts for nearly half of the world’s coal consumption.
9. United Arab Emirates
REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh
A petrol tanker leaves an EPPCO gas station in Dubai. The UAE is the world’s third largest oil exporter, now pumping 2.5 million barrels per day.
97.8 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#7)
215.1 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#7)
$13.8 trillion value at current prices
The United Arab Emirates currently produces an average of 2.8 million barrels of crude oil per day, the eight highest in the world. The UAE is also a top-20 global natural gas producer. Several ongoing projects could boost natural gas production, but with growing domestic demand for gas, that may not necessarily translate to more export revenue. The UAE is making progress at diversifying its economy in tourism and manufacturing, but the energy sector should dominate the economy for the near future.
A view shows Qatar’s liquefied natural gas producer RasGas’ tower (L), in Doha. Qatar’s purchase of stakes in engineering group Siemens and oil giant Shell follow a pattern of the Gulf Arab state investing to accelerate its domestic development.
23.9 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#13)
885.1 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#3)
$16.4 trillion value at current prices
Qatar has been thriving in recent years thanks to its robust energy sector. As the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas and the fourth largest supplier of dry natural gas, Qatar earned $55 billion from oil exports in 2012 or approximately 60% of the government’s total revenues. The development of new gas fields and other projects could increase Qatar’s production even more in the near future.
A ship is docked at Al-Basra oil terminal, next to a Central Meeting and Manifold Platform belonging to Iraq’s Southern Oil Company in the Middle East Gulf. The Southern Oil Company is preparing a new Central Metering and Manifold Platform to increase oil export capacity.
150 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#5)
126.7 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#12)
$18 trillion value at current prices
In 2012, Iraq passed Iran as the second largest producer of crude oil in OPEC, despite only a fraction of Iraq’s known oil fields being in development. The continuation of that trend is contingent on the stabilization of the country, which will make it more attractive to foreign investment. Foreign companies could provide much needed infrastructure improvements and developments.
TransCanada President and CEO Russ Girling announces the start of oil delivery operations on the Gulf Coast Project, the southern leg of the company’s Keystone system. TransCanada Corp is shipping crude oil on the 700,000-barrel-per-day Gulf Coast pipeline, a $2.3 billion project expected to help eliminate a bottleneck that has warped the U.S. oil market for three years.
173.9 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#3)
70 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#17)
6,582 million tons of proven coal reserves (#11)
$20.2 trillion value at current prices
Canada is one of the world’s five largest energy producers. With large oil and natural gas reserves and close proximity, Canada is the United States’ primary supplier of energy imports. The development of the Bakken and Athabasca oil sands has spurred unexpected growth in the world fuel supply, making Canada a key player in the energy sector going forward. Canada could become even more crucial to U.S. Energy policy, contingent on the approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
5. United States
Pump jacks are seen in the Midway Sunset oilfield, California. The nearby vast Monterey shale formation is estimated to hold 15 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil. Most of that oil is not economically retrievable except by hydraulic fracturing, a production-boosting technique in which large amounts of water, sand and chemicals are injected into shale formations to force hydrocarbon fuels to the surface.
35 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#11)
300 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#5)
237,295 million tons of proven coal reserves (#1)
$28.5 trillion value at current prices
The United States is the second largest consumer of energy in the world, accounting for 25% of the world’s petroleum consumption, while producing only 6% of the world’s annual petroleum supply. America’s dependence on foreign energy could change in the near future due to the shale gas revolution and hydraulic fracturing, which has made economically unfeasible reserves suddenly open to development.
4. Saudi Arabia
SAUDI-SOLAR/ REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed
A field of solar panels at the King Abdulaziz city of Sciences and Technology, Al-Oyeynah Research Station. Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, is working to overcome challenges to harnessing its other main resource: sunshine. Saudi Arabia wants to generate much more solar power as it lacks coal or enough natural gas output to meet rapidly rising power demand.
265.9 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#2)
290.8 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserve(#6)
$33 trillion value at current prices
Saudi Arabia has nearly one fifth of the world’s proven oil reserves, in addition to being the largest producer and exporter of petroleum. Its largest oil field, the giant Ghawar field, has more proven oil reserves than all but seven countries. Saudi Arabia also has a massive natural gas reserve, which remains relatively undeveloped. The country has instead focused on oil and, increasingly, solar energy to supply its electricity demand.
Venezuela’s acting President Nicolas Maduro greets oil workers during a visit to a facility at the oil rich Orinoco belt at the state of Monagas.
297.6 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#1)
196.4 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#8)
479 million tons of proven coal reserves (#15)
$34.9 trillion value at current prices
Venezuela may be plagued by electricity blackouts, a lack of investment, and a state oil company that is running at a massive loss, but it does have vast energy reserves. Venezuela is currently the 8th largest net exporter of oil and has the largest number of proven oil reserves in the world. The Orinoco Belt, oil sands similar to those found in Canada, constitute a large portion of Venezuela’s reserves. It is estimated that Orinoco could yield between 380–652 billion barrels, according to the US Geological Survey. However, the Orinoco oil requires more complex methods to extract than more conventional oil sources. In order to put those vast reserves to use, Venezuela will have to solve its investment and inflation issues, which have crippled oil production.
AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File
Iranian welders work on a pipeline to transfer natural gas from Iran to Pakistan. Gas could start flowing as soon as December of this year, but Pakistan has maintained that until sanctions against Iran are lifted, the project must be delayed.
157 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#4)
1,187.3 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#1)
$35.3 trillion value at current prices
With headlines dominated by US-EU-Iran nuclear talks and ongoing sanctions, it is easy to forget that Iran has the largest natural gas reserve in the world and the fourth largest oil reserves. Sanctions have had a deleterious effect on the energy sector, preventing foreign investment and technology from flooding in to develop Iran’s primarily undeveloped natural gas reserves. One unforeseen boon of the sanctions is the expansion of Iran’s domestic refineries, which have grown to meet demand in the country. Should Iran comply with the pending nuclear deal and sanctions are lifted, foreign investment could rush in to develop Iran’s massive resources.
A 1450-ton-heavy hydrocracking reactor arrives at the Rosneft’s Achinsk refinery. It is one of four reactors made for the large-scale modernization of the factory.
87 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (#8)
1,163 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves (#2)
157 million tons of proven coal reserves (#2)
$40.7 trillion value at current prices
Russia is currently the second-largest producer of dry natural gas and trails only the United States and Saudi Arabia in oil production. Russia’s economic growth is largely driven by energy exports, with oil and gas revenues accounting for 52% of its federal budget revenue. Russia’s energy dominance should continue in coming years. Natural gas is only becoming more important as an energy source and Russia holds the second largest natural gas reserves in the world.