Saudi Oil Reserves Growth Has Lagged The Rest Of The World

Despite continued skepticism about the level of Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves, their oil reserve and production metrics look pretty typical when compared to the world’s other oil-producing countries.

In this final installment of a series (See also Article 1 and Article 2) examining Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves, I want to examine several metrics to see how they stack up against the world’s other oil producers.

To recap, in 1982 Saudi Arabia stopped allowing outside audits of their oil and gas reserves. When that access was shut down, Saudi proved oil reserves were estimated to be 166 billion barrels. Since that time, Saudi has produced about 100 billion barrels of oil, but today claims reserves of 270 billion barrels.

Many people have argued that this is highly unlikely, and that Saudi’s reserves are more likely to be less than 100 billion barrels. This is the 3rd straight article I have written to investigate that question.

Reserves Growth Since 1982

The BP Statistical Review of World Energy provides production and reserves data for many countries. Data for some important oil producers, like Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan — are not available all the way back to 1982. But numbers do exist back to 1982 for 44 countries. Of those 44 countries, 77% reported increases in proved reserves since 1982. Saudi Arabia reported a 61% increase in proved reserves since 1982, but 19 countries reported larger percentage increases than that.

Venezuela’s more than 1100% reported increase in proved reserves since 1982 is mostly a result of inclusion of Venezuela’s extra heavy oil. Likewise, Canada’s 319% increase in reserves was mostly driven by the growth of the country’s proved reserves of oil sands.

A sampling of countries reporting a larger percentage of reserves growth than Saudi Arabia since 1982 include OPEC countries like Angola (+554%), United Arab Emirates (+202%), Iran (+180%), Iraq (+152%), Nigeria (+124%), and Libya (+118%).

But there were also a number of non-OPEC countries reporting larger percentage increases than Saudi Arabia, including Ecuador (+873%), Brazil (+645%), Colombia (+173%), Norway (+108%), and China (+94%).

Only 11 countries/regions (e.g.,”Other Europe”) reported lower proved reserves in 2017 than in 1982. At the bottom of the list is Mexico, which has seen proved reserves shrink by 87% since 1982. Some other countries seeing reserves decline since 1982 are Indonesia (-70%), the UK (-69%), and Egypt (-10%).

Cumulatively, total global reserves (again, impacted by a big increase in reserves of heavy oil and oil sands) increased by 134% since 1982. So, Saudi Arabia’s reported increase is about half that of the global average increase.