Top 10 Oil-producing Countries

Oil prices have rebounded a great deal since 2016, and interest in the space has been renewed. Last year, oil production rose modestly in tandem with prices, but did not outpace demand.

Investor sentiment has been boosted in recent years due to an output control deal between OPEC and 11 other top oil-producing nations. Announced in late 2016, the agreement called for oil production to fall by almost 1.8 million barrels a day, and experts initially predicted that it could cause oil prices to rise.

Prices have indeed risen, but increasing oil production in the US and other countries like Brazil has softened the effect of the cuts. OPEC and the other countries that have cut production are expected to meet in December to discuss reversing the reduction. As of the latest meeting in July of this year, no official changes were made despite protests from US President Donald Trump.

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Given those circumstances, many investors are curious to know which countries produce the most oil. Read on for a look at the top 10 oil-producing countries in the world in 2017. Statistics are from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), and include total production of petroleum and other liquids.

1. United States

Production: 15,647,000 bpd

Number one on this list of the top 10 oil-producing countries is the US. It produced the most oil in 2017, with output increasing from 14,855,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2016 to 15,647,000 bpd in 2017.

The US has been described as a swing producer because its production fluctuates alongside market prices. The International Energy Agency forecasts that the country will continue to satiate the world’s appetite for oil as demand expands in the next five years.

In addition to being a major oil producer, the US is a big consumer of oil. Last year, the US took in a total of 7.26 billion barrels of petroleum products — that’s an average of about 19.88 million bpd. As mentioned, Trump has criticized OPEC’s cuts, saying they have driven oil prices artificially high. He has also instigated sanctions against both Russia and Iran, and pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal. Investors will have to see if or how these developments affect US oil exports.

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2. Saudi Arabia

Production: 12,090,000 bpd

Saudi Arabia takes the second spot on this list of the top 10 oil-producing countries. Its output came in at 12,090,000 bpd in 2017, up from 12,387,000 bpd in 2016. The Middle Eastern country possesses 18 percent of the world’s proven petroleum reserves and ranks as the largest exporter of petroleum. Its oil and gas sector accounts for about 50 percent of its GDP, and about 85 percent of its export earnings.

In 2016, Saudi Arabia played a key role in OPEC’s decision to curb oil output, and as mentioned, prices have improved since then. However, in 2018 the country has increased its output by 1 million bpd, and prices have dipped. Saudi Arabia will be attending the next G20 meeting in Argentina, alongside the US and Russia, where members will negotiate on the next move for controlling oil prices.

3. Russia

Production: 11,210,000 bpd

Russian oil output has been increasing steadily over the years, but sank a little from 11,240,000 bpd in 2016 to 11,210,000 bpd last year. Despite coming in as the third top 10 oil-producing country, Russia is the world’s largest producer of crude oil and the second-largest producer of dry natural gas, according to the EIA. Most of Russia’s reserves are located in West Siberia, between the Ural Mountains and the Central Siberian Plateau, and in the Urals-Volga region, extending into the Caspian Sea.

Some believe Russia will one of the few nations to benefit from US sanctions on Iran. Why? Because if Iran toes the line on sanctions, then its oil customers, which include China, France, Turkey and Italy, could turn to Russia for supply. This would not only give Russia an economic boost, but could improve relations between the countries. However, Iran’s current position is to not abide by the sanctions.

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4. Canada

Production: 4,958,000 bpd

Next on this list of the top 10 oil-producing countries is Canada. It boosted its annual oil production to 4,958,000 bpd in 2017, more than 2016’s 4,594,000 bpd.

Nearly all of Canada’s proven oil reserves are located in Alberta, and according to the province’s government, 97 percent of oil reserves there are in the form of oil sands. Energy exports to the US account for the vast majority of Canada’s total energy exports. However, because of economic and political considerations, Canada is developing ways to diversify its trading partners, especially by expanding ties with emerging markets in Asia.

Canada has been embroiled in a national debate over pipelines, most recently the Trans Mountain pipeline, which has created a feud between the provinces of BC and Alberta.

The federal government announced in May that it will be purchasing the pipeline project from Kinder Morgan Canada (TSX:KML) for C$4.5 billion. The project is estimated to cost another C$7.4 billion to construct, after which the government says it plans to sell the project back to the private sector. However, there’s no telling if that will occur, because the federal court found that the environmental review previously conducted was insufficient. Now the pipeline is up for review again, with a new environmental impact study due to be released in 2019.

5. China

Production: 4,779,000 bpd

China’s annual oil output decreased in 2017, going down to 4,779,000 bpd from 4,863,000 bpd in 2016. China is the world’s second-largest consumer of oil and moved from being the second-largest net importer of oil to the largest in 2014.

Of the top 10 oil-producing countries, China is the world’s most populous country and has a rapidly growing economy — those factors have driven its high overall energy demand. China receives much of its oil from Iran, but US sanctions could have a dramatic effect on supply from the Middle Eastern country if Iran follows the rules. China may be forced to find some of its supply elsewhere, or amp up its own production to fill the gap.

6. Iran

Production: 4,695,000 bpd

Iran’s oil output increased last year, rising to 4,695,000 bpd from 4,215,000 bpd in 2016. According to the EIA, Iran holds the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves and the world’s second-largest natural gas reserves. Despite the country’s abundant reserves, Iran’s oil production has substantially fallen in recent years, and natural gas production growth has been slower than expected.

As discussed, Iran has been hit with US sanctions — although they were only implemented officially on November 5, speculation surrounding them had already begun to turn the tide against the country for months. Global shipping operators such as Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping have reportedly made claims that they will be “winding down general cargo shipments, while tanker owners said they plan to move their vessels to other oil-producing countries in the Middle East or West Africa.”

Blocking Iran’s access to crude carriers will have a huge impact on the nation’s oil industry, as well as its largest buyers in Asia. In fact, some predict that this could halve Iran’s daily crude shipments. As a counter, the European Union has launched its own offering to Iran; it hopes to preserve the Iran nuclear deal in exchange for enacting a blocking statute that would allow European companies to do business with Iran during the embargo.

Time will tell how the nation reacts to these developments, but in the meantime, Iran has vowed to break the sanctions and “continue selling oil.”


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7. Iraq

Production: 4,455,000 bpd

In 2017, despite increasing its output, Iraq got bumped from sixth place by Iran on the top 10 oil-producing countries list. The Middle Eastern country marginally increased its oil production from 4,448,000 bpd in 2016 to 4,455,000 bpd in 2017. It holds the world’s fifth-largest proven oil reserves at 144 billion barrels; that represents nearly 18 percent of the reserves in the Middle East and almost 9 percent of global reserves.

8. United Arab Emirates

Production: 3,721,000 bpd

The United Arab Emirates is an OPEC member, and has ranked among the top oil-producing countries for decades. In 2017, it saw a small decrease in production from the previous year’s 3,765,000 bpd.

The country holds the world’s seventh-largest proven oil reserves at 97.8 billion barrels; most of those reserves are located in Abu Dhabi. The other six emirates combined account for just 6 percent of the country’s total reserves.

9. Brazil

Production: 3,363,000 bpd

With the biggest increase in production year-over-year out of the top 10 oil-producing countries, Brazil came in at number nine. Last year, Brazil’s oil production jumped dramatically from 3,240,000 bpd in 2016 to 3,363,000 bpd in 2017.

According to the EIA, total primary energy consumption in Brazil has nearly doubled in the past decade because of sustained economic growth. The largest share of Brazil’s total energy consumption is oil and other liquid fuels, followed by hydroelectricity and natural gas. The recent surge in production and exports is said to be the result of years of large investments by state-run Petróleo Brasileiro (Petrobras); they are said to now be paying off due to higher oil prices. According to Reuters, “the nation hopes to use higher oil sales to help drag its economy out of a two-year recession.”

10. Kuwait

Production: 2,825,000 bpd

Last on this list of top oil-producing countries is Kuwait, whose output dropped in 2017, falling from 3,072,000 bpd in 2016 to 2,825,000 last year. Kuwait’s oil and gas sector accounts for about 60 percent of country’s GDP and about 95 percent of its export revenues.

With so much political tension and economic interdependence, how do you see the top 10 oil-producing countries performing in 2018?

Securities Disclosure: I, Amanda Kay, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.