Some interesting oil industry statistics - most frequently asked questions

1997-2009 Gibson Consulting

Perspective US Gov't
Index US imports - from where? US imports - volume US exports Largest exporters Largest importers Iraq By company
Costs Largest refiners US Capacity Capacity by state Product imports Market share Transportation
Leading countries US Production Leading US States Largest world oil fields Largest US oil fields Largest world gas fields US Production Peak Production Peak Number of wells US - Wells drilled/producing US - shut-in wells
How many gallons? How much gasoline? How much plastic? Production costs Finding costs US Gov't profits Uses of oil
US - oil US - gasoline World Changes By sector US vs China
World US US - Bakken US - shut-in wells Peak Oil Drill Baby Drill Largest world oil fields Largest US oil fields Largest world gas fields
Largest that don't use imported oil Profits Seven Sisters
Who sets the price? Price history Factors Why so high? Gasoline price breakdown Historic change in pricing basis
How much in a barrel? Retailer Profits No. of stations US Price breakdown Sales per station No Middle East oil Price in other countries
Producers Importers Companies Oil Fields Gas Fields Reserves Profits
Exports to Japan ANWR
Drill Baby Drill Salvation in Canada? US - Bakken Essay
Made of dinosaurs? Why so much in the Mid East? Who owns it? Abiotic oil
Miscellaneous Myths Alternatives
Finding costs Hot areas Bakken Time to bring onstream
How many gallons in a barrel? How much gasoline from a barrel? Where to buy gas not from Mid East? Who sets the price of oil? Why does Alaska export oil to Japan?

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Oil in the Gulf of Mexico (posted May 2010)

Answers to questions about production in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the BP well blowout.

Q: I have heard that BP wanted to drill much shallower but the EPA made them move deeper. Can the EPA have any bearing on where an oil company decides to drill their well?

A: It's a complete myth that the environmental world, or the EPA, somehow "forced" oil companies into deep water, either in general or in any specific case. Shallow drilling continues right now, and will undoubtedly discover some relatively small oil and gas fields. There may be some constraints based on the particular lease blocks offered for bid; if no shallow blocks that companies believe will offer good potential are offered, of course no company will bid on them. They (big companies) are in deep water because that's where the only likely undiscovered large-sized reservoirs lie. BP bid on that particular block because they were optimistic about its potential, and they could not have drilled "much shallower" because they did not have any rights to the shallower lease blocks. If they DID have rights to a shallow water lease block, then no one could have made them move to some other block that they (1) had no rights to and (2) had no optimism about drilling. The EPA probably has very little role in well siting anywhere - in the Federal offshore, there would be rules and regs administered by the notorious Minerals Management Service; on some Federal lands onshore there might be an EPA role but more likely just Dept of Interior, Forest Service, BLM, etc. - and in general state rules would probably be far more onerous onshore (but on Federal land, of course, Federal rules apply).

In an otherwise informative article in The Guardian, reference is made to 40% of US oil imports coming from the Niger Delta. This is incorrect; we import a total of 11,588,000 barrels per day (March 2010) of which 962,000 barrels per day came from Nigeria, or slightly more than 8%. In March 2010, Nigeria was #5 as a source of US oil imports, after Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Source

All of the oil that comes from the Gulf (the US sector) is used in the US. Much of that which comes from the Mexican sector is also used in the US. Except for 20,000-60,000 barrels per day that goes to Canada (exports of convenience, from fields near Canadian refineries), all US-produced crude oil is used in the US.

The offshore, including the Gulf of Mexico, California, and Alaska, produces 37% of all the oil the U.S. produces - more than the state of Texas, more than Alaska, more than Louisiana. The total amount (Dec. 2009) is 2,025,000 barrels per day out of 5,460,000 total US production. Of that offshore total (2,025,000 b/d) 60,000 barrels comes from Federal waters offshore CA and Alaska, an additional 230,000 barrels per day comes from state waters offshore CA and AK, and all the rest (1,734,000 barrels per day) comes from the Gulf of Mexico. 19,000 barrels of that is from the state waters of Louisiana and TX, and the rest is from the Federal waters of the Gulf.

So the total percentage of US oil that comes from the offshore Gulf of Mexico is just under 32%.

Mexico's production totals 3,200,000 barrels per day (2008) and 80% of that (2,560,000 b/d) is from the offshore Gulf of Mexico. It is not possible to specify exactly where in Mexico our imports come from, but US crude oil imports from Mexico total 996,000 b/d (Feb 2010) and it's likely that most of that is from the Gulf.

Hello - this page shows a figure with locations of 3858 platforms in the US Gulf. Each platform would support multiple individual wells, sometimes as many as 20 or more.

According to World Oil (Feb 2010 issue) at the end of 2009 there were 2237 oil wells in the Federal waters of the Gulf (down 418 from 2008) and 242 in the state waters of Louisiana.

I cannot find specifics for offshore state waters of Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida, but it is probably close to 1500 for Texas and a few hundred at most for the other states offshore.

In addition, there were 1850 producing natural gas wells in the Federal waters (down 603 from 2008) and 141 in the Louisiana state waters. Guessing several hundred to a few thousand in the other state waters.

Q: Urban Legend: Where to buy your gas? E-mail and web sites circulate (spring 2005) purporting to indicate companies that do and don't buy their oil from the Middle East, or OPEC, or whatever. Are they true?

A: There are some glaring errors in the list which make me suspicious of all the information. For example, Amoco is an integral part of BP (and Phillips is not and never was). Sinclair was acquired by ARCO many years ago, and ARCO has since been acquired by BP, also many years ago; but since then, the Sinclair brand was spun off and is now an independent company based in Utah. Citgo is owned by a south american company, Venezuela. Conoco and Phillips are merged. I would be very surprised if BP, even excluding its ownership of Arco and Amoco, did not acquire and import some middle eastern oil.

I don't know what the numbers represent - barrels per day, per year, or what, but the U.S. imports something like 12 million barrels per day, or 365 million barrels per month, or 4380 million barrels per year - none of which even remotely make sense with the total, 658 million, on the list below. This makes me suspect that the whole thing is a fabrication.

Because most retail marketers buy their gasoline from the big refineries, and because all the big refineries have significant imported oil (from all over) in their streams, it is very unlikely that you could go to any major national brand gas station and get gasoline that did not derive to some extent from oil originally found in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Canada, Mexico, etc etc etc.

Upon further research I found this EIA (DOE) page.

The numbers are rather different than your list (Shell Oil Co = 0; Chevron 111 million; but ExxonMobil right on at 130 million). Note that the total for 2004 is given as 3700 million barrels imported, less than my guess of 4380 above - that was based on an import rate of 60% which we reached late in 2004. Also, many of the small operators on the list probably sell their crude directly to refineries - so, again, any given batch of oil, from almost any retail brand name, will likely contain middle eastern oil, with a few exceptions such as the companies that are geographically restricted and do their own producing, refining AND marketing.

Regarding Diamond Shamrock, I believe it is indeed owned by Valero, which imports significant oil from the Persian Gulf area. Even if it did not, it is absolutely inconceivable to me that a major refining company like Valero could possibly operate all the facilities it owns without imported crude including the Middle East. They also own a bunch of former Total refineries and stations - Total is/was a French company, undoubtedly an importer of middle eastern crude, and the arrangements are probably still in place. Bottom line, it is virtually impossible to buy gas at the pump that is "pure" non-OPEC, non-Middle East, non-Saudi, or non-anything. Almost all marketers buy from big refineries, and big refineries have NO CHOICE but to use as much crude, from whereever they can get it, to keep going at the 100% level. If you cut out Saudi crude from the refineries, then you cut out 14% of all gasoline.

Note that the EIA list is just Persian Gulf imports by company, not the entire middle east. Please be sure to read the introductory paragraph at the top of that page. And in case you are one who does not trust government data - all I can say is, I do, and the information in the EIA site is likely to be the most definitive you can get.

See also responses to questions below.

Q: Which companies import oil from the Middle East?

A: The basic data are here, but please also read this page. Even though some companies may not directly import Middle East oil, the fact is that most refineries create blends based on diverse purchases, so that it is unlikely in the extreme that you can go to any national brand retail gas station and expect to be purchasing gasoline that does not derive to some extent from Middle East crude oil. Exceptions might be those few companies, limited in geographic scope, that do their own exclusive producing, refining, and marketing. Even they likely blend other purchased crudes in their refinery streams. Oil is a global market. The only way Americans could eliminate Middle Eastern crude from their "diet" would be to reduce imports dramatically -- like by 30% to 50% -- and given our rate of consumption, that is not going to happen.

Q: Can you tell me which companies sell gas refined from domestic and non-OPEC sources here in the US?

A: See Above. Virtually all major refineries probably have some crude from OPEC countries in their streams. There are some small refining and marketing companies that just use local sources -- for example, here in Montana we have a company called Cenex that has a refinery in Billings which probably gets most of its oil from the Williston Basin (Montana, North Dakota, and Saskatchewan). There are undoubtedly other entities like that in other oil regions of the country; Sinclair, in Salt Lake City, makes that claim, and Suncor, a refiner in Denver, gets its oil from only the US and Canada and markets in Colorado as Phillips 66. But as far as any of the big names, Mobil, Texaco, Marathon, Unocal, Chevron, Amoco, BP, Exxon, Conoco, Shell, Total, and any others with national names (as well as a lot of other names that are not national, but that are owned by bigger companies -- for example, here in Montana we have a local marketing company called Town Pump, which is owned by ExxonMobil), the likelihood is great that they get their gasoline from major refineries, and the likelihood is also great that those refineries get at least some of their crude from OPEC countries. Since about 40% of our total imports come from OPEC countries, it would be impossible to keep the big refineries going at the near-100% level (as they are at present) without that input.

Q: Are there any gas companies in the United States that do not sell any gasoline imported from the Mid-East? If so, which companies are they?

A: See Above. Most gasoline marketers buy their gasoline from refineries - so a better question would be are there any refineries that do not import oil. The answer is very few - some small refineries use only local sources: for example, here in Montana there is a local company called Cenex that is a refining and marketing company. I believe its refineries get their oil mostly from the Williston Basin (might be some from Canada). Generally, all major marketers get their gasoline from major refineries, and all major refineries use imported oil - they have to, otherwise they would not have nearly enough (total US imports equal almost two-thirds of our consumption these days). To try to determine exactly where each refinery gets its oil, you'd probably have to ask each refining company - but all the big ones use imported oil including Middle East oil, and the mix changes from day to day.

Compiled by Dick Gibson, Gibson Consulting, 301 N. Crystal St., Butte, MT 59701

Want to know more?
Gibson Consulting recommends: Read The Prize, by Daniel Yergin.

1997-2009 Gibson Consulting
Background image of drilling well in Utah in 1981 2000 by Dick Gibson