U.S. Overtakes Saudi Arabia In Recoverable Oil Reserves

The United States has again outstripped Saudi Arabia as the holder of the world’s biggest recoverable oil resources with current technology, largely due to the doubling of fracking operations in the Permian, according to data by research consultancy Rystad Energy.

The U.S. added nearly 50 billion barrels in 2017 and now has an estimated 310 billion barrels of recoverable oil, which are equal to 79 years of U.S. production at the current pace of output, Rystad said.

Apart from the Permian, where more reserves per well are drilled, new areas and formations that have been geologically proved boosted the U.S. recoverable oil resources last year, according to the Norway-based energy consultancy.

“Texas alone now holds more than 100 billion barrels of recoverable oil, 90% of which is from shale or other tight formations, ie. from wells that require hydraulic fracking to produce commercial quantities of oil,” said Rystad Energy.

The “recoverable oil” figures include expected production from future discoveries that Rystad deems likely.

Out of 1 trillion barrels of yet undiscovered oil globally, shale oil makes up close to 300 billion barrels, according to Rystad Energy’s database. Some 78 percent of these yet-to-be-discovered oil resources are in non-OPEC countries.

In terms of oil that has already been discovered, Saudi Arabia continues to be the undisputed leader, holding 246 billion barrels of discovered oil, which is 90 billion barrels more than the discovered oil in the United States, according to Rystad Energy.

As far as commercially proved oil reserves—the industry’s closest definition of oil yet to be produced—are concerned, the world’s total such reserves are 388 billion barrels, equal to just 13 years of oil production. OPEC producers hold around 54 percent of the world’s commercially proved reserves.

According to Rystad data, the new commercially proved reserves added in 2017 outpaced last year’s production and consumption level globally, signaling that there is a sustainable inventory of oil for the short term.

Although the Petroleum Resource Management System (PRMS) from the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) provides a widely accepted scheme for classifying petroleum reserves and resources, the term ‘proved reserves’ is used very differently around the world.

“Compilations of government reported oil reserves are a mix of apples and oranges, and the standards differ largely between OECD and OPEC countries,” Per Magnus Nysveen, Head of Analysis at Rystad Energy, said.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com