Here we take a look at the countries around the world with the largest proven oil reserves, with countries such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia topping the list

Russia and a plethora of Eastern European countries are failing to meet their targets for expanding domestic gas production, according to GlobalData

Since the emergence of oil industry in mid-nineteenth century, the energy source has offered a bountiful supply of power, triggered wars and reshaped geo-politics with various countries competing to control its supply.

It has been used as fuel for our transport, to generate electricity to light our homes, run factories and machines, as a raw material to produce fertiliser to increase food production and produce plastics used all over the world.

Here we take a look at the top ten countries with the largest amounts of oil.


Largest oil reserves

Venezuela – 300 billion barrels

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves of any country in the world, with more than 300 billion barrels of proven reserves.

In 2011, the country surpassed Saudi Arabia to top the list of countries having the largest oil reserves.

However, the development of this huge reserves has taken a backseat due to political unrest over the past few years.

The country also has large deposits of oil sands like those present in Canada.

Due to their viscous nature, Venezuela’s Orinoco tar sands can be produced using conventional methods.


Saudi Arabia – 269 billion barrels

Though the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia held the world’s largest oil reserves for several decades, the country has slipped to second spot and has 269 billion barrels of proven oil reserves as of January 2016.

Its oil capacities are estimated to account for a fifth of global conventional reserves, with a significant part of its reserves being present in few of its very large oil fields.

The country’s reserves are expected to exceed that of Venezuela in the future if it increases its exploration activities.

largest oil reserves
Khurais Oil Processing Facility Saudi Arabia February 4 2017 (Credit: Planet Labs, Inc/Wikipedia)

Canada – 171 billion barrels

With proven oil reserves of 171 billion barrels, Canada stands at the third position in the oil holdings list.

Oil sands deposits in the province of Alberta account for more than 95% of the country’s reserves.

The province also holds a considerable amount of its conventional oil reserves, while most of its oil exports are sent to the US.

Its oil sands are a key contributor to growth in supply of liquid fuel in the world in the past few years.


Iran – 158 billion barrels

International sanctions on Iran due to its nuclear activities have weighed on the country’s energy sector, hitting its oil production.

The country has an estimated proven oil reserves of 158 billion barrels as of January 2016.

Iran’s oil reserves are expected to last for nearly a century if it continues its production at 2006 rates.

Over the past few decades, however, its production has been hampered by political unrest, ongoing war with Iraq and a lack of significant investments, among others.


Iraq – 143 billion barrels

With oil reserves of 143 billion barrels, Iran occupies fifth position in the oil holdings list.

The country’s energy sector has been hit by military occupation and civil unrest, and unexplored region in the nation is estimated to have a potential for vast oil reserves.

Sanctions and two Gulf Wars also inflicted a severe blow to its oil infrastructure.

Basra, Baghdad and Ramadi are the cities that hold much of the country’s reserves and, according to World Bank, Iran needs an annual investment of $1bn (£760m) to continue its current oil production rate.

largest oil reserves
Image: Iran occupies fifth position in the oil holdings list (Credit:

Kuwait – 104 billion barrels

Despite being a small country, Kuwait is a significant contributor to the world’s oil reserves.

As the third oil producer among Organization of the Petroleum Exporting (OPEC) countries, the country holds 8% of the global oil reserves.

It has 104 billion barrels, with about 70% of them located in in the Burgan field, the second largest oil field in the world.

Kuwait has been producing from the field since 1938.


Russia – 80 billion barrels

Russia has 80 billion barrels of oil reserves, with a major part of them located in Siberian plains.

Its production slumped after the collapse of Soviet Union but later rebounded due to privatisation of the energy industry.

With the country continuing its exploration activity, it is expected to boost its oil reserves in arctic waters and ice.

largest oil reserves
Russia has 80 billion barrels of oil reserves (Credit: suwatpo/

United Arab Emirates – 98 billion barrels

As of January 2016, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has 98 billion barrels of oil reserves, with an estimated 66 billion barrels in Zakum field, which is the third-largest in the Middle East.

More than 90% of the UAE reserves are held Abu Dhabi, followed by Dubai and Sharjah.


Libya – 48 billion barrels

With oil reserves of 48 billion barrels, the country has most oil holdings of any country in Africa.

A large part of the region, where there is potential for finding new oil reserves, remains unexplored in the country.

The exploration activity in Libya has been hit by sanctions against overseas oil companies.


Nigeria – 37 billion barrels

Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa, with a daily capacity of more than 2.5 million barrels per day.

Meanwhile, its oil reserves stand at 37 billion barrels.