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No, expanded Brics won’t control 80% of world’s oil. Recent output of 11 countries less than 50%

IN SHORT: When it was announced that another six countries, including three in the Middle East, had been invited to join Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in the Brics group, claims started circulating on social media that this would mean a control of 80% of the world’s oil output. But the truth is a little more complicated.

The Brics group of five nations held its 15th summit in South Africa in late August 2023.

Brics stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The five countries aim to help each other grow their economies and cooperate in other ways.

Brics is seen as an alternative to other country groupings such as the G7, made up of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy and the European Union of 27 states.

During the August summit South African president Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Brics had decided to invite six more countries to join: Argentina in South America, Egypt and Ethiopia in Africa, as well as the Middle East countries of Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The six would become members in January 2024, Ramaphosa said. That would make Brics a group of 11 nations.

Social media quickly responded with a claim about the hold the enlarged Brics would have on the world’s oil supply.

“The new BRICS will control 80% of global oil production,” a typical version of the claim reads. “With the addition of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Iran to the BRICS, the Union will be able to control the lion's share of the world's black gold production.”

Black gold is a term for crude oil, called “crude” because it still has to be refined or processed into other products. These include paraffin, kerosene, jet fuel, liquid gas and, most importantly, petrol and diesel.

Another reads: “BRICS Countries Now Control 80% Of The Worlds Oil Reserves.”

The claim can also be seen here, here and here.

Is it true that the 11 countries likely to make up an expanded Brics in January 2024 control 80% of the world’s oil production?

BricsOil_False

Production or reserves?

First, there’s a difference between oil production and oil reserves.

Production is when oil is pumped up and put on the market. Reserves are an informed guess about the amount of oil a country may have under the ground. This is estimated by geologists, but nobody knows for sure how much oil lies under the surface of the Earth.

One country may produce more oil while another has larger reserves. In fact, production is sometimes cut back to drive up the price of oil.

Six of 11 Brics countries among world’s top producers

The in-depth Statistical Review of World Energy has been published every year since 1952. It’s produced by the Energy Institute with data from Scotland’s Heriot Watt University, checked by the consulting firms Kearney and KPMG, and supported by the UK energy company BP.

The review’s 2023 edition, released in June, indicates that in 2022 the top two producers of oil were the US and Saudi Arabia.

According to the review, about 80% of the global 4,407 million tonnes of oil produced in 2022 was from 14 countries. Three – Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – are set to join Brics in 2024. Another three – Brazil, China and Russia – are existing members of the bloc.

Statistical Review of World Energy: top oil* producers in 2022

Rank

Country

Production in million tonnes

Share of world total

1

United States

759.5

17.2%

2

Saudi Arabia**

573.1

13.0%

3

Russian Federation**

548.5

12.4%

4

Canada

274.0

6.2%

5

Iraq

221.3

5.0%

6

China**

204.7

4.6%

7

UAE**

181.1

4.1%

8

Iran**

176.5

4.0%

9

Brazil**

163.1

3.7%

10

Kuwait

145.7

3.3%

11

Mexico

97.7

2.2%

12

Norway

89.0

2.0%

13

Kazakhstan

84.1

1.9%

14

Qatar

74.1

1.7%

Total: share of global production

3,592.4

81.5%

Global production

4,407.2

100%

Source: Statistical Review of Energy 2023
*Includes crude oil, shale oil, oil sands, condensates and natural gas liquids
**Member of expanded 11-nation Brics

The African countries set to be part of the 11-member Brics are Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa.

The review indicates that in 2022 Africa’s major oil producers were Algeria, Angola, Chad, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Libya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan and Tunisia.

It groups Ethiopia and South Africa under “other Africa” – 40 or so countries on the continent that don’t produce globally significant amounts of oil.

Statistical Review of World Energy: oil* production by 11-member Brics countries in 2022

Country

Production in million tonnes

Share of world total

Argentina

32.8

0.7%

Brazil

163.1

3.7%

China

204.7

4.6%

Egypt

29.9

0.7%

India

33.0

0.7%

Iran

176.5

4.0%

Saudi Arabia

573.1

13.0%

Russian Federation

548.5

12.4%

United Arab Emirates

181.1

4.1%

Other Africa**

13.8

0.3%

Total: share of global production

1,956.5

44.2%

Global production

4,407.2

100%

Source: Statistical Review of Energy 2023
*Includes crude oil, shale oil, oil sands, condensates and natural gas liquids
**Includes Ethiopia and South Africa. Excludes Algeria, Angola, Chad, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Libya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan and Tunisia

This indicates that the 11 countries produce around 44% of the world’s crude oil. When measured according to average daily output in 2022 – in thousands of barrels a day – the share is a slightly lower 43.4%.

But do other data sources match up?

Opec puts output at close to half of global total

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries or Opec is a group of 13 major oil producers in the Middle East, Africa and South America.

According to Opec’s Annual Statistical Bulletin 2023, the 11 countries produced a combined 34.7 million barrels per day in 2022. 

That’s a slightly higher 47.6% of the global total of 72.8 million barrels a day, almost half, but still nowhere near 80%.

The US government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) lists the world’s top 10 producers of oil. But its definition of “oil” is broader. It includes, for example, biofuels or fuel made from plants, algae and other living matter.

According to the EIA list, the top 10 produced 73.5% of global oil in 2022, with US output the highest at 20.8%.

Again, six of the 11 countries set to make up the expanded Brics – Brazil, China, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – are among the top 10. Their combined output in 2022 was, according to the EIA, 39% of the world’s total.

Brics is set to control a lot of the world’s oil – according to Opec, almost half – when the six new countries join the five-member bloc in January 2024. But the 11 countries don’t produce a combined 80% of the global total.

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