What are proven oil reserves

Oil reserves worldwide and in Germany: an overview

Apart from the environmental aspect, the fossil fuel crude oil is in public discussion because of its finite occurrence. The topic is particularly relevant for owners of oil heating systems. Information on oil reserves fluctuate worldwide, which is due to economic and technical reasons. Predictions and projections indicate that supplies will dry up between 20 and 50 years. A differentiation can be made according to the forms of occurrence. Geologists only rate estimates made as proven oil reserves. They require funding that is already technically possible today. This factor is interpreted differently in the countries that have oil reserves. According to internationally accepted assessments, only “pure” crude oil is given the definition reserve. Oil bound in sand and shale and deep-sea deposits are excluded from the census. However, not all states follow this counting method.

International situation

The actual production volumes partly coincide with the highest proven oil reserves. For many years, Saudi Arabia, the largest producing country, was at the top of the statistics for having the largest oil reserves in the world. A few years ago, studies showed that Venezuela has even greater reserves. The oil reserves were stated as follows in 2016:


Oil reserves in billions of tons

Saudi Arabia36,6

In sixth to eighth place are Russia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates with reserves of over ten billion tons. Libya has the largest deposits in Africa with 6.3 billion tons, followed by the USA with 5.8 billion tons. The information from Canada and Venezuela in particular should be viewed with skepticism. Canada includes its oil sands and Venezuela its heavy oils. Both deposits do not count as "pure" oil that can be extracted.

In general, the proven oil reserves are arguable. A truly independent and reliable international geoscientific authority does not exist. The oil-producing countries link their accepted and permitted production quantities to the presumed reserves in an international agreement. Almost half of all stated reserve increases since the 1980s are of dubious origin.

European and German oil reserves

In an international comparison, the proven oil reserves in Europe and Germany are modest. The North Sea deposits are mainly shared by Norway and Great Britain. To a lesser extent, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands are involved.

The oil reserves in Germany are estimated at around 32 million tons. With annual production rates of two to three million tons, exploitation of your own crude oil is possible for another ten to 15 years according to current knowledge.

Perspective and forecast

In addition to the more or less realistic recording of the already known and yet to be discovered oil reserves worldwide, consumption plays the essential role as a decisive variable. A reliable forecast of the period in which crude oil will still be available is and remains only possible as a rough estimate. In addition to the current imponderables, technical progress must also be taken into account. It presumably leads to a growing eligibility for extraction, which increases the reserves that can be exploited.

Pessimistic estimates assume that supply will be secure by around 2050. The optimistic predictions believe that stocks will be secure until the end of this century.

Oil price indicator

The price of oil is not a reliable indicator of whether reserves are running out more slowly or more quickly. Funding quotas and market prices are almost without exception the result of political events and interests. The finiteness of the fossil raw material is gratefully used as a price-driving argument. For supply in Germany, it should be noted that the fuel price is roughly one third of the market price. Germany buys crude oil in over 30 countries.