Why Middle East Has So Much Oil?

With petroleum prices at an all-time high, it makes us wonder why only a handful of countries have most of the world’s oil deposits. Taken together, it’s the Middle East countries that have the highest proven reserves of oil. It includes countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen These countries have around half of world’s oil reserves and around 38% of natural gas reserves. But why is that Middle East has so much oil? Why don’t other countries have similar oil reserves? To answer such questions, here are some important things we need to know.

Tethys Ocean – Around 100 million years earlier, the Middle East region was submerged in water by Tethys Ocean. Fed by various rivers, Tethys Ocean became home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Over millions of years, these microscopic forms kept depositing on the ocean floor. As layers formed several miles deep, the pressure exerted transformed the aquatic corpses into oil. This in turn remained trapped under thick layers of salt.

Tectonic activity – With tectonic activity over millions of years, the Tethys Ocean receded and Middle East was converted into dry, sandy desert. This exposed the topmost layers underneath which vast amounts of oil and natural gas deposits are present. As surface-based oil wells are exhausted of their supply, oil companies move towards the oceans to dig beneath the ocean bed. Drilling has been going on deeper and deeper, with current-generation offshore oil wells going down several kilometers beneath the ocean bed.

Why Arctic has so much oil?

While Middle East may have the highest oil reserves, it does not mean that the world is becoming entirely dependent on them. New frontiers are being explored such as the Arctic, which is estimated to have 13% of the world’s oil reserves. Natural gas reserves in the Arctic region are estimated to be around 1/4th of the global reserves.

While some areas of the Arctic have oil deposits under land surface, most of it is under the ocean bed. That’s where many countries like Russia, US, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland and China are focusing. Oil in the Arctic was formed in the same manner, as it was in Middle East. However, extracting oil from Arctic is a lot more challenging as compared to doing the same in Middle East. It’s due to the area’s remote location and extreme weather conditions.

Why Venezuela has so much oil?

While Middle East as a region is number one in oil reserves, it’s Venezuela that has the world’s largest oil reserve as a single country. And not very long ago, Venezuela used to lead in oil production. It used to be the largest exporter of oil to United States. However, production has been impacted due to political instability in the country.

As to the answer to why Venezuela has so much oil, it is due to the country’s unique geology. Oil and natural gas need five favorable conditions to form and accumulate. These geological requirements are source rock, reservoir, trap, seal and migration pathway. There are several locations in Venezuela that have all these five geological characteristics in perfect sync. That’s why Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves. However, due to economic crisis and political instability, Venezuela has not been able to utilize its vast buried wealth.

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