Estimated Oil Reserves, Selected OPEC Countries, 1980-1991 (billions of barrels)

 

Estimated Oil Reserves, Selected OPEC Countries, 1980-1991 (billions of barrels)

Source: US Energy Information Agency, International Energy Annual Report.

The reserves reported by several OPEC countries surged during the 1980s. What is unusual about this surge is that it was sudden, without the discovery of any significant new oil fields and taking place in a context of declining oil prices. For instance, in 1988 the reserves of Iraq doubled, from 47 to 100 billion barrels, while Saudi Arabia “discovered” 88 billion barrels of new reserves in 1990, the equivalent of the Kuwaiti reserves (which surged by 26 billion barrels in 1985). The main rationale behind these inflated reserve figures was attempts at increasing the respective national quotas of oil exports which are a function of reported reserves. These accounting manipulations created a lot of friction within OPEC, a factor behind the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990.