A map of world oil reserves, 2013. Oil reserves denote the amount of unconventional oil and gas resources handbook pdf oil that can be technically recovered at a cost that is financially feasible at the present price of oil.


Hence reserves will change with the price, unlike oil resources, which include all oil that can be technically recovered at any price. Reserves may be for a well, for a reservoir, for a field, for a nation, or for the world. Different classifications of reserves are related to their degree of certainty.

The total estimated amount of oil in an oil reservoir, including both producible and non-producible oil, is called oil in place. However, because of reservoir characteristics and limitations in petroleum extraction technologies, only a fraction of this oil can be brought to the surface, and it is only this producible fraction that is considered to be reserves. The ratio of reserves to the total amount of oil in a particular reservoir is called the recovery factor. Determining a recovery factor for a given field depends on several features of the operation, including method of oil recovery used and technological developments.

Because the geology of the subsurface cannot be examined directly, indirect techniques must be used to estimate the size and recoverability of the resource. While new technologies have increased the accuracy of these techniques, significant uncertainties still remain. In general, most early estimates of the reserves of an oil field are conservative and tend to grow with time. This phenomenon is called reserves growth.