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USGS Releases Global Estimate for Undiscovered, Technically Recoverable Conventional Oil and Gas Resources

WASHINGTON—Excluding the United States, the world holds an estimated 565 billion barrels (bbo) of undiscovered, technically recoverable conventional oil; 5,606 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of undiscovered, technically recoverable conventional natural gas; and 167 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas liquids (NGL), according to a new assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released today.

The report includes mean estimates of undiscovered but technically recoverable conventional oil and gas resources in 171 geologic provinces of the world. These estimates include resources beneath both onshore and offshore areas. A fact sheet is available here.

All of these numbers represent technically recoverable oil and gas resources, which are those quantities of oil and gas producible using currently available technology and industry practices, regardless of economic or accessibility considerations. This assessment does not include reserves – accumulations of oil or gas that have been discovered, are well-defined, and are considered economically viable.

This assessment does not include the United States; however, the USGS is continuously assessing American domestic resources. More information on domestic assessments is available here.

The assessment results indicate that about 75 percent of the undiscovered technically recoverable conventional oil of the world, exclusive of the United States, is in four regions: South America and the Caribbean (126 bbo); sub-Saharan Africa (115 bbo); the Middle East and North Africa (111 bbo); and the Arctic provinces portion of North America (61 bbo).

This new assessment comes on the heels of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s visit to Brazil this week to promote key strategic partnerships in energy development, open government and tourism as part of President Obama’s efforts to create jobs, enhance offshore energy safety and make government more transparent and effective. USGS reports that nearly half of the undiscovered conventional oil resources present in the entire South America-Caribbean Region exist in the areas offshore Brazil.

“While we continue to focus our efforts on ways to continue to grow domestic energy production for America and further reduce our dependence on foreign oil, better knowledge of untapped resource potential all around the world will help us make better decisions regarding both domestic and global energy policy and resource management,” said Secretary Salazar. “In particular, this assessment underscores the importance of continuing to strengthen our energy partnerships in the Western Hemisphere with nations like Brazil, where we are working closely with industry and government to share best practices on offshore drilling safety and to enhance the energy security of both our countries.”

“In the twelve years since the last assessment, the steady progress in technology now allows additional resources to be regarded as technically recoverable,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “By placing this information in the public domain, government leaders, investors, public and private corporations, and citizens have a common information base for planning and decisions that affect the global environment and market place.”

U.S. dependence on foreign oil has gone down every year during the Obama administration – including a reduction in net oil imports by ten percent – or a million barrels a day – in the last year alone. The U.S. imported approximately 11.4 million barrels per day of petroleum in 2011 from about 80 different countries. In 2011, about 79 percent of gross petroleum imports were crude oil, and approximately 60 percent of the crude oil processed in U.S. refineries was imported, according to the Energy Information Administration.

This new assessment represents a complete reassessment of the world since the last World Petroleum Assessment in 2000 by the USGS, which estimated 649 bbo, 4,669 tcf of gas, and 207 bbo of NGL in 128 geologic provinces. Many new areas were included in the current study, defining and assessing 313 assessment units throughout the world, as compared to 246 in 2000.

These new estimates are for conventional oil and gas resources only. Unconventional oil and gas resources, such as shale gas, tight oil, tight gas, coalbed gas, heavy oil, oil sands, may be significant around the world, but are not included in these numbers.

USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources of the world. This global assessment was undertaken as part of a project assessing global petroleum basins using standardized methodology and protocol. To learn more about this or other geologic assessments, please visit the Energy Resources Program website.

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