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Mapped: The World’s Biggest Oil Discoveries Since 1868

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Mapped: The World's Biggest Oil Discoveries Since 1868

Mapped: The World’s Biggest Oil Discoveries Since 1868

Oil and gas discoveries excite markets and nations with the prospect of profits, tax revenues, and jobs. However, geological processes did not distribute them equally throughout the Earth’s crust and their mere presence does not guarantee a windfall for whatever nation under which they lie.

Entire economies and nations have been built on the discovery and exploitation of oil and gas, while some nations have misused this wealth─or projected growth just never materialized.

Today’s chart comes to us from research compiled by World Bank economist Jim Cust and Natural Resource Governance Institute economist David Mihalyi and it plots major oil discoveries since 1868.

The 20 Biggest Oil Discoveries

This map includes 1,232 discoveries of recoverable reserves over 500 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) From 1868 to 2010.

The discoveries cluster in certain parts of the world, covering 46 countries, and are of significant magnitude for each country’s economy. The average discovery is worth 1.4% of a country’s GDP today, based on the cash value from their production or net present value (NPV).

Of the total 1,232 discoveries, these are the 20 largest oil and gas fields:

FieldOnshore/OffshoreLocationDiscoveryProduction startRecoverable oil, past and future (billion barrels)
Ghawar FieldOnshoreSaudi Arabia1948195188-104
Burgan FieldOnshoreKuwait1937194866-72
Gachsaran FieldOnshoreIran1927193066
Mesopotamian Foredeep BasinOnshoreKuwaitn/an/a66-72
Bolivar Coastal FieldOnshoreVenezuela1917192230-32
Safaniya FieldOffshoreKuwait/Saudi Arabia1951195730
Esfandiar FieldOffshoreIran1965n/a30
Kashagan FieldOffshoreKazakhstan2000201330
Aghajari FieldOnshoreIran1938194028
Tengiz FieldOnshoreKazakhstan1979199326-40
Ahvaz FieldOnshoreIran1953195425
Upper Zakum FieldOffshoreAbu Dhabi, UAE1963196721
Cantarell FieldOffshoreMexico1976198118-35
Rumaila FieldOnshoreIraq1953195417
Romashkino FieldOnshoreRussia Volga-Ural1948194916-17
Marun FieldOnshoreIran1963196616
Daqing FieldOnshoreChina1959196016
Shaybah FieldOnshoreSaudi Arabia1998199815
West Qurna FieldOnshoreIraq1973201215-21
Samotlor FieldOnshore
Russia, West Siberia
1965196914-16

The location of these deposits reveals a certain pattern to geopolitical flashpoints and their importance to the global economy.

While these discoveries have brought immense advantages in the form of cheap fuel and massive revenues, they have also altered and challenged how nations govern their natural wealth.

The Future of Resource Wealth: A Curse or a Blessing?

A ‘presource curse’ could follow in the wake of the discovery, whereby predictions of projected growth and feelings of euphoria turn into disappointment.

An oil discovery can impose detrimental consequences on an economy long before a single barrel leaves the ground. Ideally, a discovery should increase the economic output of a country that claims the oil. However, after major discoveries, the projected growth sometimes does not always materialize as predicted.

Getting from discovery to sustained prosperity depends on a number of steps. Countries must secure investment to develop a project to production, and government policy must respond by preparing the economy for an inflow of investment and foreign currency. However, this is a challenging prospect, as the appetite for these massive projects appears to be waning.

In a world working towards reducing its dependence on fossil fuels, what will happen to countries that depend on oil wealth when demand begins to dwindle?

Countries can no longer assume their oil and gas resources will translate into reliable wealth — instead, it is how you manage what you have now that counts.

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Which Companies Are Responsible For the Most Carbon Emissions?

Since 1965, over ⅓ of the world’s cumulative carbon emissions can be traced back to just 20 fossil fuel companies. Who are the biggest contributors?

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20 Companies Responsible For the Most Carbon Emissions?

Since 1965, it’s estimated over 1.35 million metric tons (MtCO₂e) of greenhouse gases have been released into the atmosphere—and over a third can be traced back to just 20 companies.

This week’s chart draws on a dataset from the Climate Accountability Institute, and highlights the companies which have been responsible for the most carbon emissions in the past half-century.

The Sum of their Carbon Emissions

Between 1965-2017, the top 20 companies have contributed 480,169 MtCO₂e in total carbon emissions, or 35% of cumulative global emissions. This whopping amount is mostly from the combustion of their products—each company on this chart deals in fossil fuels.

The largest contributor? Saudi Aramco, the national petroleum and natural gas company of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco actually comes in first on another list as well—it’s the most profitable company, making over $304 million daily.

However, this financial gain came at a significant cost: the state-owned giant’s operations have resulted in 59,262 MtCO₂e in carbon emissions since 1965. To put that into perspective, this total is more than six times China’s emissions in 2017 alone (9,838 MtCO₂e).

Explore the full list of companies by location, who owns them, and their total 1965–2017 emissions count below:

CompanyCountryOwnershipAll Emissions, MtCO₂e
Total Emissions480,169 MtCO₂e
Saudi Aramco🇸🇦 Saudi ArabiaState-owned59,262
Chevron🇺🇸 U.S.Investor-owned43,345
Gazprom🇷🇺 RussiaState-owned43,230
Exxon Mobil🇺🇸 U.S.Investor-owned41,904
National Iranian Oil Co.🇮🇷 IranState-owned35,658
BP🇬🇧 UKInvestor-owned34,015
Royal Dutch Shell🇳🇱 NetherlandsInvestor-owned31,948
Coal India🇮🇳 IndiaState-owned23,124
Pemex🇲🇽 MexicoState-owned22,645
Petroleus de Venezuela🇻🇪 VenezuelaState-owned15,745
PetroChina🇨🇳 ChinaState-owned15,632
Peabody Energy🇺🇸 U.S.Investor-owned15,385
ConocoPhillips🇺🇸 U.S.Investor-owned15,229
Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.🇦🇪 UAEState-owned13,840
Kuwait Petroleum Corp.🇰🇼 KuwaitState-owned13,479
Iraq National Oil Co.🇮🇶 IraqState-owned12,596
Total SA🇫🇷 FranceInvestor-owned12,352
Sonatrach🇩🇿 AlgeriaState-owned12,302
BHP Billiton🇦🇺 AustraliaInvestor-owned9,802
Petrobras🇧🇷 BrazilState-owned8,676

A Greener Business Model?

According to the researchers, all the companies that show up in today’s chart bear some responsibility for knowingly accelerating the climate crisis even after proven scientific evidence.

In fact, U.S.-based Exxon Mobil is currently on trial for misleading investors: the company downplayed the effect of climate change on its profitability, while internal calculations proved to be much larger. It also sowed public doubt on the immense impacts of rising greenhouse gas levels on the planet.

Growing sustainability and environmental concerns threaten the viability of old business models for these corporations, causing many to pivot away from the fossil fuel focus. Take BP for example—originally named British Petroleum, the company embraced “Beyond Petroleum” as its new rallying cry. More recently, it launched a carbon footprint calculator and is committed to keeping its carbon emissions flat into 2025.

However, the Climate Accountability Institute argues that more can still be done, with the researchers calling for these companies to reduce their fossil fuel production in the near future.

Continued pressure on these “Big Oil” companies to peak their carbon emissions, and urgently increase their renewable energy investment, may help curb the climate crisis before it’s too late.

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Economy

Ranked: Countries with the Most Sustainable Energy Policies

Which countries are able to balance prosperity and sustainability in their energy mixes? See the countries with the most sustainable energy policies.

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strongest energy policies index

Ranked: Countries With Most Sustainable Energy Policies

The sourcing and distribution of energy is one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Just under one billion people still lack basic access to electricity, and many more connect to the grid through improvised wiring or live through frequent blackouts. On the flip side of the socioeconomic spectrum, a growing chorus of voices is pressuring governments and corporations to power the global economy in a more sustainable way.

Today’s visualization – using data from the World Energy Council (WEC) – ranks countries based on their mix of policies for tackling issues like energy security and environmental sustainability.

The Energy Trilemma Index

According to WEC, there are three primary policy areas that form the “trilemma”:

1. Energy Security
A nation’s capacity to meet current and future energy demand reliably, and bounce back swiftly from system shocks with minimal disruption to supply. This dimension covers the effectiveness of management of domestic and external energy sources, as well as the reliability and resilience of energy infrastructure.

2. Energy Equity
A country’s ability to provide universal access to reliable, affordable, and abundant energy for domestic and commercial use. This dimension captures basic access to electricity and clean cooking fuels and technologies, access to prosperity-enabling levels of energy consumption, and affordability of electricity, gas, and fuel.

3. Environmental Sustainability
The transition of a country’s energy system towards mitigating and avoiding environmental harm and climate change impacts. This dimension focuses on productivity and efficiency of generation, transmission and distribution, decarbonization, and air quality.

Using the dimensions above, a score out of 100 is generated. Here’s a complete ranking that shows which countries have the most sustainable energy policies:

RankCountryTrilemma ScoreLetter Grade*
1🇨🇭 Switzerland85.8AAA
2🇸🇪 Sweden85.2AAA
3🇩🇰 Denmark84.7AAA
4🇬🇧 United Kingdom81.5AAA
5🇫🇮 Finland81.1AAA
6🇫🇷 France80.8AAA
7🇦🇹 Austria80.7AAA
8🇱🇺 Luxembourg80.4BAA
9🇩🇪 Germany79.4AAA
10🇳🇿 New Zealand79.4AAA
11🇳🇴 Norway79.3CAA
12🇸🇮 Slovenia79.2AAA
13🇨🇦 Canada78.0AAC
14🇳🇱 Netherlands77.8BAB
15🇺🇸 United States77.5AAB
16🇨🇿 Czech Republic77.4AAB
17🇺🇾 Uruguay77.2ABA
18🇪🇸 Spain77.0BAA
19🇭🇺 Hungary76.8AAB
20🇮🇹 Italy76.8BAA
21🇮🇸 Iceland76.2BAB
22🇱🇻 Latvia76.1ABA
23🇸🇰 Slovakia75.6ABA
24🇧🇪 Belgium75.2BAA
25🇮🇪 Ireland75.2CAA
26🇷🇴 Romania75.1ABA
27🇭🇷 Croatia74.9ABA
28🇦🇺 Australia74.7BAB
29🇵🇹 Portugal74.0BBB
30🇪🇪 Estonia73.8BAB
31🇯🇵 Japan73.8CAB
32🇮🇱 Israel73.3CAB
33🇲🇹 Malta72.9DAA
34🇭🇰 Hong Kong (China)72.5DAB
35🇦🇷 Argentina72.4BAB
36🇱🇹 Lithuania72.4CBA
37🇰🇷 South Korea71.7BAC
38🇨🇷 Costa Rica71.6CBA
39🇧🇷 Brazil71.6ABA
40🇲🇽 Mexico71.3ABB
41🇧🇬 Bulgaria71.3BBB
42🇷🇺 Russia71.2AAC
43🇸🇬 Singapore71.2DAB
44🇻🇪 Venezuela70.3ABB
45🇪🇨 Ecuador69.6ABB
46🇵🇦 Panama69.5CBA
47🇬🇷 Greece69.5CBA
48🇨🇱 Chile69.4BBB
49🇨🇴 Colombia69.3BCA
50🇲🇺 Mauritius69.0CBB
51🇲🇾 Malaysia68.5BBC
52🇦🇪 U.A.E.68.3BAD
53🇵🇱 Poland68.3BBB
54🇨🇾 Cyprus67.9DBB
55🇶🇦 Qatar67.9AAD
56🇧🇳 Brunei67.7CBC
57🇦🇿 Azerbaijan67.7BBB
58🇵🇪 Peru66.8ACB
59🇰🇿 Kazakhstan66.6BBC
60🇦🇲 Armenia66.3CBB
61🇺🇦 Ukraine66.0ACC
62🇸🇻 El Salvador66.0BCA
63🇴🇲 Oman65.5BAD
64🇲🇪 Montenegro65.4CBB
65🇰🇼 Kuwait65.2CAD
66🇹🇷 Turkey64.9CBC
67🇵🇾 Paraguay64.7DBA
68🇹🇭 Thailand64.6CBC
69🇮🇩 Indonesia64.1BCC
70🇷🇸 Serbia63.8BBC
71🇲🇰 North Macedonia63.7CBC
72🇨🇳 China63.7BBD
73🇦🇱 Albania63.7DBA
74🇮🇷 Iran63.6ABD
75🇹🇳 Tunisia63.6BBC
76🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago63.3CAD
77🇬🇪 Georgia63.1CBC
78🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia62.8CAD
79🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herz.62.1BBC
80🇧🇭 Bahrain62.1BAD
81🇱🇧 Lebanon61.6DAC
82🇩🇿 Algeria61.3CBD
83🇲🇦 Morocco61.1CCC
84🇧🇴 Bolivia60.4BCC
85🇱🇰 Sri Lanka60.1BCB
86🇦🇴 Angola60.0ADB
87🇪🇬 Egypt59.9BBD
88🇬🇹 Guatemala59.7BCC
89🇬🇦 Gabon59.5CBD
90🇳🇦 Namibia59.1CDA
91🇻🇳 Vietnam58.9ACD
92🇿🇦 South Africa58.9DBD
93🇮🇶 Iraq58.9BBD
94🇵🇭 Philippines58.6BCC
95🇯🇴 Jordan58.5DBC
96🇧🇼 Botswana57.7DCC
97🇩🇴 Dominican Republic57.6DBB
98🇯🇲 Jamaica56.9DBC
99🇹🇯 Tajikistan55.7DCC
100🇭🇳 Honduras55.3DCC
101🇸🇿 Eswatini55.1DCC
102🇳🇮 Nicaragua54.5DCC
103🇬🇭 Ghana52.9CDC
104🇲🇲 Myanmar51.9BDB
105🇰🇭 Cambodia51.6CDC
106🇰🇪 Kenya51.3BDB
107🇲🇩 Moldova51.2DCD
108🇲🇳 Mongolia51.1DCD
109🇮🇳 India50.3BDD
110🇵🇰 Pakistan49.6CDD
111🇨🇮 Côte d’Ivoire49.3BDC
112🇿🇲 Zambia47.8CDB
113🇨🇲 Cameroon47.4BDD
114🇧🇩 Bangladesh47.1DDC
115🇿🇼 Zimbabwe46.0CDC
116🇲🇷 Mauritania45.6BDD
117🇳🇵 Nepal44.3DDC
118🇸🇳 Senegal43.4DDD
119🇹🇿 Tanzania42.5DDC
120🇪🇹 Ethiopia42.3DDC
121🇲🇬 Madagascar42.2CDC
122🇲🇿 Mozambique41.4DDC
123🇳🇬 Nigeria40.7BDD
124🇲🇼 Malawi39.1DDB
125🇧🇯 Benin36.3DDD
126🇹🇩 Chad33.8DDD
127🇨🇩 D.R.C.33.8DDC
128🇳🇪 Niger30.0DDD

*The letter grade represents national performance in three dimensions. The first letter represents Security, the second letter represents Equity, the third letter represents the Environmental Sustainability. The top grade is AAA, the lowest is DDD.

Highs, Lows, and Outliers

Every country has unique circumstances — from strategic energy reserves to green energy ambitions — that shape their domestic energy policies. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more interesting situations around the world.

Sweden

sweden energy trilemma index

Qatar

qatar energy trilemma index

Singapore

singapore energy trilemma index

Dominican Republic

dominican republic energy trilemma index

Niger

niger energy trilemma index

Global Energy Outlook

Achieving the balance of prosperity and sustainability is a goal of nearly every country, but it takes stability and the right mix of policies to get the job done.

The fact that many trilemma scores are improving is an indicator that the world’s patchwork of energy policies are slowly moving in the right direction.

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