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The World’s Top Oil Producers

Oil generates revenue for countries with enough oil reserves to produce more oil than they consume. And for those economies that are heavily dependent on imports, oil expenditures must be factored into national budgets. Not surprisingly, events such as unrest in oil-producing regions, new oil field discoveries, and advances in extraction technology profoundly affect the oil industry. Most of the time, the top oil-producing countries in the world rake in a lot of profit on their production.

Global production of oil and other petroleum liquids averaged 95.6 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). In 2021, the top producing country group was OPEC (31.7 million b/d) followed by OECD (31.0 million b/d) (some countries are in both groups, such as the United States). The top three producing countries identified by the EIA in 2021 were the United States (18.9 million b/d), Saudi Arabia (10.8 million b/d), and Russia (10.8 million b/d).

Key Takeaways

  • Despite continuing growth in renewable energy, oil production continues to play a key role in the global economy.
  • The top three producing nations (identified by the EIA) in 2021 were the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Russia.
  • The United States became the world’s top petroleum liquids producer in 2013 and the world’s top crude producer in 2021.
  • China’s production meets just over a third of its oil consumption. leaving it the world’s largest petroleum importer.

United States

The United States is the top petroleum liquids producer in the world, averaging 18.9 million b/d to account for 20% of the world’s production in 2021. It’s also the top producer of crude oil and lease condensate at 11.2 million b/d as of 2021.

In addition to crude oil and condensate, the broader category of petroleum liquids also includes natural gas plant liquids as well as biofuels. While the U.S. has been the world’s top petroleum liquids producer since 2013 thanks to surging natural gas liquids production from shale deposits, it didn’t surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia in crude oil production until 2018.

Much of the increased U.S. crude oil production is attributable to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the shale formations in Texas and North Dakota. Natural gas liquids production received an even larger boost from the development of the Marcellus Shale deposits in western Pennsylvania. The United States became a net exporter of petroleum (i.e., exports exceeded imports) for the first time since at least 1949 in 2020 but returned to net importer status in 2021.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia contributed 10.8 million b/d, representing 11% of the world’s total petroleum liquids production in 2021. It held 15% of the world’s proved oil reserves and was the largest crude exporter in 2020. Saudi Arabia is the only member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to make this list.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the petroleum sector accounts for roughly 42% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), 87% of its budget revenues, and 90% of export earnings. Saudi Arabia’s major oil fields include Ghawar, Safaniya, Khurais, Manifa, Shaybah, Qatif, Khursaniyah, Zuluf, and Abqaiq.

Global crude (includes lease and plant condensate) oil production is expected to rise from 76.1 million b/d in 2020 to 99.3 million b/d in 2050. Total petroleum liquids production is seen rising from 94 million b/d to 125.9 million b/d over the same time frame.

Russia

Russia was one of the world’s top oil producers with an average of 10.8 million b/d in 2021, accounting for 11% of global production.

Russia’s main regions of oil production are Western Siberia, Urals-Volga, Eastern Siberia and the Far East. Most of the production originates from the West Siberia and Volga-Urals regions, especially the Priobskoye and Samotlorskoye fields in Western Siberia.

The oil industry in Russia was privatized after the fall of the Soviet Union, but the state has since forced a consolidation and a restructure in 2001. Gazprom, Rosneft and Lukoil are the top Russian oil and gas producers.

Canada

Canada held the fourth spot among the world’s petroleum liquids producers with 5.5 million b/d in 2021, accounting for 6% of global output. The EIA estimates its crude oil and condensate production of 4.2 million b/d in 2020 could grow to 6.9 million b/d by 2050, primarily from oil sands production.

Canada’s main sources of oil production are the oil sands of Alberta, the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, and Atlantic offshore fields.

China

China produced 5.0 million b/d of petroleum liquids in 2021, accounting for 5% of the world’s production. China passed the U.S. to became the world’s largest oil importer in 2017. China’s oil consumption of 14.0 million b/d in 2019 made it the world’s second-largest consumer in the world after the U.S.

The northeast and north-central regions of the country are responsible for the majority of domestic production. Mature fields like Daqing have been heavily drilled for oil since the 1960s, and companies are increasingly investing in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques, such as polymer and stream flooding and water injection, to offset some of the production declines.

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