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Rystad Energy

Rystad Energy

Rystad Energy is an independent energy consulting services and business intelligence provider offering global databases, strategic advisory and research products for energy companies and suppliers,…

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World’s Recoverable Oil Resources Shrinks By 9%

Every year and following the publication of the BP Statistical Review, Rystad Energy releases its own assessment to provide an independent, solid and clear comparison of how the world’s energy landscape changed last year. Our 2021 review deals a major blow for the size of the world’s remaining recoverable oil resources – but it also shows that oil production and consumption can align with climate goals.

Rystad Energy now estimates total recoverable oil resources at 1,725 billion barrels, a significant reduction of last year’s estimate of 1,903 billion barrels. Out of this total, which shows our estimate of how much oil is technically recoverable in the future, about 1,300 billion barrels are sufficiently profitable to be produced before the year 2100 at a Brent real oil price of $50 per barrel.

“In this scenario, global production of oil and natural gas liquids will fall below 50 million barrels per day by 2050. Exploring, developing, processing and consuming this amount of commercially extractable oil will lead to gross greenhouse gas emissions of less than 450 gigatonnes of CO2 from now until 2100. This is compliant with IPCC’s carbon budget for global warming limited to 1.8?C by 2100,” says Rystad Energy’s Head of Analysis, Per Magnus Nysveen.

US and China take the largest hit by the revision:

This year’s review of global recoverable oil resources is based on resources modelled at well level rather than field level. This more detailed approach has removed 178 billion barrels from the expected accounts as the confidence level for decline rates has increased with the amount of new information gathered.

Our updated report also includes revisions for proved reserves. Here Rystad Energy applies a consistent set of conservative probabilities, as opposed to official reporting by authorities which is deemed less consistent. Among other findings, we see significant differences among OPEC members on the longevity of proved reserves, ranging from well below 10 years for some members to almost 20 years for Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

In terms of absolute volumes removed from non-OPEC producers, remaining recoverable resources in the US are now reduced to 214 billion barrels, losing 30 billion barrels from last year’s estimate. China suffers the second-largest loss with its remaining recoverable resources now limited to 50 billion barrels, a downwards revision of 26 billion barrels. Mexico’s recoverable resources are third on the loss list, downgraded by 12 billion barrels to 26 billion barrels. Most of this year’s revisions are driven by lower upside potential from shale oil drilling due to complex geology and the need for extensive exploration campaigns and improved fracking technologies.

The remaining recoverable resources of OPEC countries are reduced by 53 billion barrels to 741 billion barrels. Iran and Saudi Arabia have the largest revisions, losing 11 billion barrels each, with Saudi recoverable oil volumes now calculated at 288 billion barrels and Iranian volumes at 101 billion barrels. Iraq follows in third place, seeing its recoverable resources shrink by 8 billion barrels to 110 billion barrels.

Related: Natural Gas Prices Still Have Room To Run

Who sits on the largest resources?

In this revision, Saudi Arabia keeps the throne as the producer with the largest volumes of recoverable oil resources (288 billion barrels). The US follows second (214 billion barrels), Russia third (149 billion barrels) and Canada fourth (138 billion barrels).

In Central and South America, Brazil remains first in recoverable resources, sitting on 83 billion barrels (down 2 billion barrels from last year’s update). In Europe, with 19 billion barrels (down by 1 billion barrels in this update), Norway remains ahead of the UK, whose volumes have shrunk by 2 billion barrels to 10 billion. In Africa, resource leader Nigeria lost 6 billion barrels and its recoverable resources are now estimated at 20 billion barrels.

Unlike most countries in our analysis, Australia’s estimated recoverable oil resources are now seen higher by 2 billion barrels at 23 billion barrels.


The time stamp of Rystad Energy’s newest resource assessment is 1 January 2021. In other words, our analysis illustrates where the remaining recoverable resources of each country stood at the beginning of this year.

By Rystad Energy

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Leave a comment
  • Mamdouh Salameh on July 13 2021 said:
    Rystand Energy should have differentiated between proven reserves and recoverable reserves.

    Why no mention of Venezuela which sits on the world’s largest proven reserves estimated at 303 billion barrels (bb)?

    Are the Saudi recoverable reserves of 288 bb proven reserves? If so then Saudi Arabia comes second after Venezuela in ranking. However, persistent question marks are rife about the real size of Saudi reserves.

    My latest research based on Saudi production since oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1938 (for which we have figures) and an annual depletion rate averaging 5%-7% for the same period show that remaining Saudi reserves couldn’t have been bigger than 43 bb by the end of June 2021.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • Adji Sukathuranshajeet on July 14 2021 said:
    Both oil and water are renewables and are available in unlimited supply, created by Mother Nature. Both are created underground and are the life sources of this planet. This idea of oil being a finite resource was created by man, in order to control the markets and people. There is a lot of supporting material available from the worlds finest scientists and geologists to this effect.

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