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  • Writer's pictureSarah Whiteford

Who produces the oil we use every day?

It's Fun Fact Friday! This Friday, we explore where the oil we use comes from, both overseas and domestic.

We interact with oil products every single day. As we drive to work and school, we use gasoline, lubricant oils, and other forms of crude. We may heat our homes with oil or natural gas products. Even if we aren’t leaving the house and it’s a nice warm day outside, we are touching crude products all the time. Any item made of plastic such as a laptop, game controller, pen, or even the handle to our refrigerator are plastic. Many synthetic fibers such as polyester that is used in clothes, furniture or carpeting are made from crude oil. With oil all around us, we might begin to wonder: where does all this oil come from? The short answer is: oil comes from all over the world. Even here in the United States, crude oil is imported from many countries like Saudi Arabia and Canada combined with oil drawn from 32 of the states in America. The Unites States of America is the largest producer world-wide of crude oil. Let’s take a closer look at where we get our oil.

As of 2019, 5 countries produce more than half of the world’s oil: United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Canada.

Image Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Image Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration

The United States has a lot of oil in oil sands. These “are a mixture of sand, water, clay, and a type of oil called bitumen” ( The bitumen is a thick substance that does not flow on its own and is mixed in with water and sand. In the past, this type of oil was not a good option because the drilling and refining techniques needed were not available. With new technology, these oil sources are now available and can be more cost effectively extracted and processed. As some of the oil reserves have started to dry up, new reserves have been found. As you can see on the graph above, production has been increasing quickly, and some estimates now put U.S. oil production at more than 19 million barrels per day.

Russia is also a high producer of oil due to extensive reserves in Siberia and along the north coast in the Atlantic Ocean. As more resources are tapped for production, their percentage could rise further. An estimated 100 billion barrels of oil are still underground in Russia. Additionally, there is a lot of unexplored land that could yield even greater amounts.

Saudi Arabia has been one of the largest producers of oil in the world for decades. Their current production is about 10 million barrels per day. Their reserves could be as much as 260 billion barrels, meaning if they produced 10 million barrels per day, every day, they could produce oil at that rate for more than 70 years just on their current known reserves!

Iran produces its oil from traditional drilling, without hydraulic fracturing which has become more and more common in other areas such as the United States. Producing over 4 million barrels of oil per day, their reserves are still estimated at 90 years or more.

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Canada has much of its oil in oil sands. As technology has improved, they have increased production steadily over the last few decades. The largest deposit is in Alberta, called the Athabasca deposit. Canada’s oil sands cover an area of more than 142,000 square kilometers, or almost 55,000 square miles.

With the United States producing the most oil of any country in the world, where does the oil come from within our borders? Well, according to Investopedia: “As of 2015, 90% of U.S. oil production, excluding federal offshore drilling, comes from eight states: Texas, North Dakota, California, Alaska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Wyoming.” Much of the increase in output is due to fracking technology. With fracking, drillers can reach huge deposits that were not accessible before. This increase in production also attracts companies back to the United States to spend money here.

Image Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration

As you can see from the image above, much of the oil production comes from one area, with the vast majority from Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. Texas has 27 refineries, the most of any state. Increased fracking in the Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin have increased oil production dramatically in recent years. If Texas were its own country, it would be the sixth-largest oil producing country in the world.

North Dakota sits on the Bakken Shale formation and the Williston Basin, two of the largest oil reserves on Earth. These reserves extend into South Dakota, Montana, and even Canada. North Dakota and Texas together provide half of the oil from the United States.

California, Alaska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Wyoming provide the remainder of the oil production from the United States. A combination of new wells and better drilling technology has increased output in most of these states. Oklahoma is home to the city of Cushing, the world’s largest storage facility for oil reserves. The price of oil, called West Texas Intermediate, is also determined there.


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