How Much Oil Is In The Ground In The Middle East?

by Liam Scheff

How much oil is in the ground in the Middle East?

Good question!

Answer: they never quite tell the truth about it.

Question: Do they “not quite tell the truth” by claiming less – or more?

Have a look at what happened in the ’80s, as OPEC companies changed their rules about how much they could produce (“sell”). They decided that if they had bigger ‘reserves’ (volumes of oil they say they KNEW they had – had ‘proven’ to be true), then they could have bigger ‘quotas’ – volumes they could sell and make money, money, money from.

So. How did it go?

Scroll down the list on the CIApedia, looking for the numbers in RED. Overnight, “reserves” went from (and this is in ‘billions of barrels’)

32 to 59 (Iraq, 1982)
67 to 92.7 (Kuwait, 1984)
169.6 to 255 (Saudi Arabia, 1988)
33 to 97.2 (United Arab Emirates, 1986)
28 to 54.5 (Venezuela, 1985)
59 to 92.9 (Iran, 1986)
99.1 to 130.7 (Iran 2002)

That’s a big increase! Over-bloody-night!

What makes it more exciting is this: they hadn’t found any more oil. There had been no major oil discoveries to account for the massive pile-on. It was just a ‘boys in the club’ means to be able to sell more oil to the Western nations, all in a Reagan-Thatcher growth spurt.

These countries have continued to add onto their ‘reserve estimates,’ despite having already exported a significant volume their original lower claim.

Here’s what the CIA factbook has to say:

“The sudden revisions in OPEC reserves, totaling nearly 300 billion barrels, have been much debated. Some of it is defended partly by the shift in ownership of reserves away from international oil companies, some of whom were obliged to report reserves under conservative US Securities and Exchange Commission rules. The most prominent explanation of the revisions is prompted by a change in OPEC rules which set production quotas (partly) on reserves. In any event, the revisions in official data had little to do with the actual discovery of new reserves.” [wikicia]

Does this shed light on ‘our’ recent forays into blowing up everything in the country for a little dirty ‘tight’ oil and gas? We know it as “fracking,” and yes, it’s coming to a town near you, Amoricans. So, drink the water and breathe the air, while you can.

Read more:

Bonus Round!

Hey Canada! Tar Sands = Oil?

How many barrels of tar sands does it take to make 1 barrel of… well – not oil, but ‘bitumen’ – extremely heavy, viscous petroleum, that must have hydrogen added to it?

That is, if ‘tar sands’ are going to save us – what’s the conversion ratio?


Two tons.

It takes two tons of tar sands, boiled in local water using natural gas or (gasp) electricity from coal or nuclear power, to convert into ONE BARREL (1/8 ton) of very sticky ‘oil,’ (that still needs energy-intensive processing or mixing to be usable).

WikiCIA: “About two tons of oil sands are required to produce one barrel (roughly 1/8 of a ton) of oil.” [wiki/Oil_sands]

OilDrum: “About two tons of tar sands are required to produce one barrel (roughly 1/8 of a ton) of oil. The next phase is either to use hydrogen to upgrade the bitumen to 30o API syncrude, which has a quality comparable to conventional crude oil, or to blend it with higher quality diluents such as conventional oil. Both these products can be refined at existing refineries. An important issue is the degree to which natural gas is required either for process heat or for upgrading the quality and reducing the viscosity of the bitumen.” [OilDrum]

Any illusion that ‘tar sands’ = oil can now, I hope, be safely put to bed. (Put your illusions to bed, why don’t you?)

But, aren’t tar sands still useful? I’m sure they will be of some use in low-level energy production – but we can see that boiling two tons of sand is hardly the same thing as hitting a geyser of the old, free-flowing, well-bursting stuff we used to call “oil.” The stuff we BUILT the 20th Century from – the stuff that is getting harder and harder to get.

Liam Scheff is the author of “Official Stories,” because “official stories exist to protect officials.”



  1. sowhat..its about food ,not oil..population will always ajust to the amount of food there is….the same as it was before oil…..this oil world is just a very small part of human history…..forgotten after a few thousand years !!

  2. in today’s fossil fuel dependent agriculture systems oil IS food

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