Of all the natural resources, crude oil reserves are perhaps the most lucrative and profitable of them all. A country with large and prosperous oil reserves holds a definite advantage in world trade over those without such a source of crude oil. While generally associated with nations of the Middle East {which remain perennial titans in oil production} ; the wealth has spread to the Americas- particularly Venezuela and Canada- as well as Eurasian countries like Russia in recent years. The ability to extract and export oil is a uniquely powerful bargaining chip in geopolitical trade and economics, and can form bonds between countries that might not exist otherwise. Here are the top 10 largest oil reserves in the world by country.  

10. Libya: 48.4 Billion Barrels

The largest oil fields and greatest oil reserves of Africa are in Libya, and experts suggest that they have many more oil rich reserves that have yet to be discovered because of sanctions against foreign oil companies and internal political instability. It is widely known and very well documented that Libya has been struggling due to a civil war and the forty two year long Gaddafi regime that ended in 2011. Due to all these conflicts, Libya has hardly been able to expand their oil production capabilities. Even still, oil has amounted to as much as 98% of government revenue in recent years; and it is highly likely that they will continue to grow as they move to maximize the productivity of their oil reserves. This could lead to political and economical development in the volatile yet promising African nation.

9. The United States: 48.5 Billion Barrels

The U.S.A has managed to find new levels of success in the past few years, likely due to their new and innovative techniques in drilling for oil. Horizontal drilling has been very effective; and fracking, while somewhat controversial, is undoubtedly an extremely effective approach that has tapped into previously inaccessible sources of oil. These advances have enabled the extraction from plentiful reserves of oil and shale. In 2012, the U.S. reached the 36 million barrel mark for the first time since 1975. In a country that expends more oil than many other nations in the world, this is a key development which can provide its citizens with a much-needed commodity and even the ability to export the product.

8. The United Arab Emirates: 98.7 Billion Barrels

The Zakum oil field in the U.A.E. has been the primary source of oil for this relatively small nation of the Arabian peninsula. Statistics indicate that oil and gas accounts for around 40% of the national GDP, which caused the country to modernize and created a high standard of living since the reserves were originally discovered in 1958. The Arabian peninsula and the surrounding area is renowned for its wealth of oil/gas reserves, and the U.A.E.’s Zakum field produces a disproportionately large amount of oil for a country with a somewhat small land area.

7. Kuwait: 101.5 Billion Barrels

Kuwait is another smaller-yet-fertile oil producing nation around the Persian Gulf. The past few decades have been chaotic in Kuwait; due to the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980’s, followed by the Iraqi invasion and annexation of Kuwait in 1990, and finally the Persian Gulf War in which a U.S. led coalition sought to remove the crushing Iraqi occupation. They were devastated by the Iraqi regime, which adopted the scorched-earth policy to destroy Kuwait’s assets. After Kuwait regained its independence, they restored their place amongst the global leaders in oil production. The Burgan oil field holds approximately 70 billion barrels, making it the world’s second largest single oil field.

6. Russia: 103.2 Billion Barrels

Russia has numerous natural resources for energy, most notably the massive oil fields in Siberia. The decline of the Soviet Union caused a lapse in oil production, but they have improved recently as the country made an effort to revamp their efficiency. There are still potentially bountiful sources in the arctic regions of Russia that have yet to be used.


5. Iraq: 150 Billion Barrels

Iraq has some of the world’s greatest reserves of oil, even though they- likely many other nearby countries in the Middle East- have been burdened down by political struggles for much of the past few decades. These conflicts crippled the entire oil production industry in the country for quite some time, preventing them from accomplishing very much at all as they were entangled in a series of wars and changes in political control. However, even the rather antiquated 2D readings of Iraq’s oil fields prove that they have a lot to offer in terms of oil. Luckily, the past few years have brought considerable improvement and helped stabilized the country; so they should be able to revitalize their oil production.

4. Iran: 157.8 Billion Barrels

Iran is yet another oil-rich Middle Eastern country, manufacturing nearly 160 billion barrels per year. They have some of the most accessible reserves in the world, which allows them to extract oil quickly and efficiently. Iran’s oil reserves were first found in 1905, so even after more than a century of production; they still haven’t depleted their resources. At their current rate, they’ll continue to churn out oil for another century or more; and that doesn’t even take currently undiscovered fields into consideration. Almost 150 hydrocarbon fields are located in Iran, and they contain both oil and natural gas.

3. Canada: 172.9 Billion Barrels

Canada leads the North American nations in terms of oil production. A significant portion of their sources are in the oil sands deposits in Alberta, and many of the conventional oil reserves are located in Alberta as well. Extracting oil from the oil sands isn’t as easy or straightforward as drilling in the more common types of oil fields, so Canada’s oil production is rather sporadic compared to other countries in which extraction is relatively straightforward and the production is steady. Canadian oil companies typically prioritize drilling for the low-density, high value oil; but they will not hesitate to transition to the rather difficult extraction of crude oil if necessary. Despite the cumbersome and tedious nature of Canada’s oil production, they are still one of the world’s most oil-affluent countries.

2. Saudi Arabia: 267 Billion Barrels

There is perhaps no country more heavily associated with oil than Saudi Arabia. People around the world know of the incredibly wealthy oil sheikhs with their gold-plated cars and enormous yachts, as well as the role of oil in Saudi Arabia’s position in geopolitics. While many might be surprised to learn that Saudi Arabia no longer holds the top position in oil production, they remain in second place by a substantial margin. Much of the oil in Saudi Arabia can be accessed and extracted with ease in their massive oil fields. As much as a fifth of the entire world’s oil reserves lie in Saudi Arabia. It is quite possible that Saudi Arabia will reclaim their place as the world’s leading oil producer, as there are oil fields/reserves that have yet to be developed.

1. Venezuela: 298.3 Billion Barrels

Over the past decade, Venezuela has capitalized on the massive oil reserves at its disposal and climbed its way to the top of the world’s oil-producing nations. Part of their vault to the top was caused by the discovery of oil sands, much like the ones in Canada; as well as conventional oil/natural gas deposits. Perhaps the greatest oil asset in Venezuela are the Orinoco tar sands, which are less viscous than the sands in Canada. This means that they can be drilled and extracted by traditional means, so production is much more consistent and continuous. Venezuela is something of a newcomer to the oil game, but it certainly seems like they’re in the hierarchy to stay.