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Oil generates revenue for countries with enough oil reserves to produce more than their domestic consumption. And for those economies that are heavily dependent on imports, oil expenditures must be factored into national budgets. Not surprisingly, events such as unrest in oil-producing regions, new oil field discoveries, and advances in extraction technology profoundly affect the oil industry. Ultimately, the top oil-producing countries in the world are raking in a lot of profit.

According to recent data collected by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), total oil production averaged more than 94.185 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2020. The top five oil-producing nations are responsible for nearly half of the world’s production of crude oil as well as all other petroleum liquids, biofuels, and products resulting from the refinery process.

Key Takeaways

  • Despite the increasing proliferation of alternative energy sources, oil production continues to play an important role in the global economy.
  • According to the most recent data, the top five oil-producing nations are the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Canada, and China.
  • The United States overtook Russia in 2017 for the second-place spot and surpassed former leader Saudi Arabia a year later to become the world’s top oil producer.
  • Global oil production is expected to rise from 80 million b/d in 2018 to 100 million b/d in 2050.
  • Thanks to oil sands, Canada is expected to have some of the highest growth in oil production, percentage-wise, over the next three decades.

Below are the five countries that produced the most oil as of 2020.

United States

The United States is the top oil-producing country in the world, with an average of 18.6 million b/d, which accounts for 20% of the world’s production. According to the EIA, the United States has held the top spot for the past three years.

The United States overtook Russia in 2017 for the second-place spot and surpassed former leader Saudi Arabia a year later to become the world’s top oil producer. Much of the increased U.S. production is attributable to fracking in the shale formations in Texas and North Dakota. The United States became a net exporter of petroleum (i.e., exports exceed imports) in 2020.

Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributes 10.82 million b/d, representing 11% of the world’s total production. Saudi Arabia is the only member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to make this list.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the petroleum sector accounts for roughly 42% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), 87% of its budget revenues, and 90% of export earnings. Saudi Arabia’s major oil fields include Ghawar, Safaniya, Khurais, Manifa, Shaybah, Qatif, Khursaniyah, Zuluf, and Abqaiq.

Global oil production is expected to rise from 80 million b/d in 2018 to 100 million b/d in 2050, per the EIA.

Russia

While Russia has fallen in the ranks, it remains one of the world’s top oil producers, with an average of 10.5 million b/d in 2020, accounting for 11% of total world production.

Russia’s main regions of oil production are Western Siberia, Urals-Volga, Eastern Siberia and the Far East, Arkhangelsk, and the Komi Republic. Most of the production originates from the Priobskoye and Samotlor fields in Western Siberia.

The oil industry in Russia was privatized after the fall of the Soviet Union, but after a few years, the companies were reverted to state control. Some of Russia’s most prominent oil production companies are Rosneft, Surgutneftegaz, and Gazprom Neft.

Canada

Canada holds the fourth spot among the world’s leading oil producers, with an average production of 5.26 million b/d in 2020, accounting for 6% of global production. According to the EIA International Energy Outlook 2019, Canada’s production could double by 2050, rising 123%, topping growth from any of the other non-OPEC countries. This increase is expected to come primarily from oil sands production.

Canada’s main sources of oil production are the oil sands of Alberta, the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, and Atlantic offshore fields.

China

China produced an average of 4.93 million b/d of oil in 2020, which accounts for 5% of the world’s production. That being said, China is a net importer of oil, as the country consumed an average of 13.89 million b/d in 2018, which made it the second-largest oil consumer in the world (14% of the total world share) after the United States.

The northeast and north-central region of the country are responsible for the majority of domestic production. Mature fields like Daqing have been exploited since the 1960s, but general mature field production has peaked, and companies are increasingly investing in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques, such as polymer and stream flooding and water injection, to offset some of the production declines.