TABLE 3-8 World and U.S. Petroleum Resources


1992 Resource Consumption (billion bbl)a

Total Resource (billion bbl)

Resource/1992 Consumption (years)





United Statesb (domestic)




a Data from EIA (1994a).

b Total U.S. petroleum consumption in 1992 was 6.2 billion bbl, with about 50 percent accounted for by oil imports (EIA, 1994a). If total consumption were used for the last column, the resource/ consumption value for the United States would decrease to 16-33 years.

c See Riva (1991).

d Low number based on current technology and price of $20/bbl; high number based on advanced technology and price of $27/bbl (NRC, 1993).

In addition to conventional petroleum, there are substantial resources of heavy oil and bitumen9 (Riva, 1991). The total world resource for heavy oil is estimated to be 600 billion bbl (equal to 35 percent of the conventional petroleum resource). About 50 percent of the heavy oil resource occurs in Venezuela and about 30 percent in the Middle East. The total resource for tar sands is approximately 3,500 billion bbl, but only 5 to 10 percent of this amount is currently considered to be economically recoverable. Here Canada is dominant, with 75 percent of the world total. Both heavy oil and bitumens require more costly production and refining than conventional petroleum and are not competitive with petroleum at current prices.

To compete with coal for power generation, heavy oils and bitumen would require pollution control similar to that required for coal, because of their high sulfur and metals content. To compete with coal at approximately $1.4/million Btu,10 the delivered price of tars would need to be about $9/bbl or less. The above considerations support the assumption that unrefined tars and heavy oils will not displace a significant amount of coal for power generation in the foreseeable future.


Coal still has some limited uses as a fuel outside the utility sector. Industry burns coal as a boiler fuel to raise steam. Limited use is also seen commercially in


Heavy oil is defined as crude oil with an American Petroleum Institute gravity between 10° and 20° and viscosity between 100 and 10,000 cp. (American Petroleum Institute gravities are expressed in degrees and the specific gravity of water is defined as 10°) Bitumen is more viscous and dense and is produced by mining.


Based on projected minemouth price in 2010 of $30.9/ton (EIA, 1994a) and Btu content of approximately 21 million Btu/ton.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement