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The Oil and Petroleum Industry

Gas, petrol, petroleum…no matter how often we curse the price of it we wait in line to buy more. We may calculate exactly where to find the best costs per gallon or liter as we drive around town, and probably assume it all comes from the same place. It is interesting to note, however, that where we get our oil isn’t always the place we expect.

Quick Facts About the Industries

  • Oil accounts for more than a quarter of the planet’s energy resource needs. While mainly used to power vehicles and machinery, oil may also be found in other products that are petroleum-based.
  • Oil is not a renewable resource. Typically this means that once it’s used, it’s gone. However, practices are in place that maintain oil reserves, which hold oil that is recovered through various means.
  • The BBC reported in 2006 that over twelve hundred billion barrel of crude remained in reserves, which was estimated to last about forty years.
  • BP reported that same year that the US alone consumes on average twenty billion barrels a year.

Top Exporters of Oil and Petroleum

The top producers of crude and petroleum are based in the Middle East, where one will find the largest supply of resources. As for the world’s top exporters, World Factbook reports that these countries include:

  • Russia – Russia exported an estimated 7.5 million barrels in 2010. Main importers of their product include Germany, Norway, and the United States.
  • Saudi Arabia – With well over seven million barrels exported annually, Saudi Arabia offers a great bounty to trade nations China, the United States, and Japan.
  • Iran – Iran’s main trade partners in oil include Spain, India, and The Netherlands.  In 2010, the country shipped out almost 2.5 million barrels.
  • United Arab Emirates – The UAE deals mainly with Japan, Iran and South Korea when it comes to exporting their oil.
  • Norway – Norway exports just over two million barrels annually, with the bulk of their product going to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

According to Consumer Energy Report, while Saudi Arabia remains an important nation in this industry, other countries have gained ground in production and distribution. Canada and Mexico, for two, overtook Saudi Arabia’s position as top exporter to the United States in 2011—Canada’s yield of over two thousand barrels a day into US was twice what the Saudis shipped over.

Challenges in the Oil Industry

The search for viable sources for oil continues, despite industry assurance that we have plenty for us for the next several decades. The challenge in finding more, however, could lead to higher prices at the pump, which seems to occur with regularity in recent years.  Horizontal drilling, a method by which companies drill straight into oil reservoirs, has proven to give companies a better way to get to hard-to-reach material, though the method is similar to fracking for natural gas. Environmental activists do not look kindly upon this activity.

How long will the oil last? If we believe the earlier affirmation that we have a good forty or so years left, it may be time to look into alternative methods of energy. Discovery of new oil, however, remains a global prospect that majors nations will continue to pursue.


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