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Where is oil found?

Oil reserves are found in sedimentary basins throughout the world. They are classified as recoverable, probable, proved and established reserves.

  • Probable: reserves believed to exist with reasonable certainty based on geological information
  • Recoverable: both economical and non-economical reserves that can be produced with existing technology
  • Proved: reserves that can be economically produced with a large degree of certainty from known reservoirs using existing technology
  • Established: generally defined as proved reserves plus one-half probable reserves


On a regional basis, the Middle East has the largest amount of reserves: 746 billion barrels or 55.6 per cent of the world total. North America is second with 209.9 billion barrels or 15.6 per cent. On a by-country basis, the top ten countries are listed below.


Historically, the most prolific oil producing region in Canada has been the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin, which accounts for 58.5 per cent of the country’s conventional reserves, not including oil sands reserves. More recently, the Atlantic Margin has become a major producing region with approximately 34.3 per cent of Canada’s reserves. Although production from the Arctic Islands, Beaufort Sea and Mackenzie Delta has been quite low, the area contains approximately seven per cent of Canada’s reserves. The Pacific Margin, the Intermontane area between the Rocky and the West Coast mountain ranges in British Columbia, the mainland areas of the Territories and the Eastern Cratonic region, in central Canada, where the Canadian oil industry was born, contain the rest.

Alberta also has 170.4 billion barrels of oil sands reserves, for total reserves of 171.9 billion barrels.

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