Few commodities have shaped our world and advanced civilisation as profoundly as oil and gas. In 2021, the oil and gas industry boasts a colossal market size of $2.1 trillion, comprising around 3.8 per cent of the global economy. Oil alone powers a third of the world’s energy production – far more than any other commodity – making it a lifeblood of the global economy.


While the tide is gradually shifting towards renewable alternatives, the world still depends heavily upon the oil and gas, in a plethora of ways. Read on for 10 fascinating facts about this dynamic sector, sourced from around the world.

1. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world.

Venezuela leads the world with 300.9 billion barrels of oil reserves – a 17.8 per cent share of global reserves. For context, one oil barrel equals 159 litres of oil. While the country has long produced oil, it announced in 2011 an unprecedented increase in proven oil reserves as oil sands in the Orinoco Belt were certified, bumping it to the top spot globally.

venezuela oil punto fijo

2. The world’s oldest operating FPSO is Arco Ardjuna.

Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels are the primary operating systems for many offshore oil and gas producing regions around the world. The longest-operating FPSO is the Arco Ardjuna vessel, which was built in 1973 and is yet to retire. Moored at the Ardjuna Oil Field in the Java Sea, approximately 95km from Jakarta, it has been running for an impressive 48 years.

oldest fpso arco ardjuna

3. The largest oil and gas company in the world is Saudi Arabian Oil Co.

The largest oil and gas company in the world by market capitalisation is Saudi Arabian Oil Co, often referred to as Saudi Aramco. With a whopping $1.9 trillion market cap, the company dwarfs the second-largest market cap by an oil company, Exxon Mobil, by an astounding ratio of 10:1. Owning the second-largest proven crude oil reserve in the world at 270 billion barrels, it refines more oil than any other company, with a head-spinning rate of 5.4 million barrels a day. What makes the immensity of this company even more remarkable is that it only went public in 2019.

saudi aramco headquarters

4. Petroleum is older than dinosaurs.

Ever wonder where the term ‘fossil fuel’ comes from? Petroleum is made up of hydrocarbons that were originally formed from the remains of ancient plants and animals. In a process that takes millions of years, the combination of underground heat and pressure transforms hydrocarbons into petroleum. Thus, the petroleum we use today was formed from the fossils of animals and plants that pre-date the dinosaurs. The good news is that the earth is capable of producing more petroleum. The bad news is that we might be waiting a while.

oil catagenesis diagram

5. The United States has produced more oil than any other country.

Currently, the United States holds the record for having produced the most oil in the world, generating roughly 9,352,000 barrels per day.  This equates to around 16 per cent of the world’s oil. The US is also one of the largest consumers of oil in the world. With 190,000 miles of oil pipelines stretching across the country, it’s a big business that contributes enormously to the US economy, supporting 10.3 million jobs.

port arthur texas oil refinery

6. Bubblegum is made from oil.

Believe it or not, the base used in bubblegum is made from petroleum-based polymers. This petroleum base in gum is the secret to gum behaving the way it does. Luckily, other ingredients are added for flavour!

petroleum in bubblegum

7. Most oil found in the ocean has oozed naturally from the ocean floor.

The ocean floor is the ideal place for oil to form, over the course of millions of years. It acts as a vast landing pad for dead animals and plants (most things that die in the ocean eventually sink to the bottom) and the ultimate resting place for dead matter from land that has been swept into the ocean. Combined with compression, heat, and minimal oxygen over millions of years, petroleum or natural gas is formed. Naturally occurring oil seeps from the ocean floor account for nearly half of the oil released in the ocean environment every year.

natural oil seep diagram

8. Bitumen was poured over the heads of lawbreakers in ancient Assyria.

In ancient Assyria, lawbreakers suffered a barbaric punishment. Bitumen – a black, viscous form of petroleum – would be poured over the heads of offenders. This brutal punishment – which has all the trappings of a Game of Thrones scene – was elaborated upon at various times in history to include feathers and a walk of shame, known as ‘tarring and feathering’.

macro liquid bitumen oil

9. Australia’s oil and gas industry could provide more than 220,000 jobs in the next 20 years.

Despite the impacts of COVID, Australia’s oil and gas industry is strong, and is projected to provide a $350 billion boost to the national economy – and more than 220,000 jobs – over the next 20 years. The industry has in fact helped Australians ride the impacts of COVID - without the industry, there would be no hand sanitiser, no phones, and no computers. The industry today contributes approximately 3 per cent to Australia’s GDP.

oil worker recruitment

10. Ancient Egyptians used petroleum as medicine.

In ancient times, Egyptians used liquid forms of petroleum as medicine, most likely for dressing wounds, soothing pain and even as a laxative. Today, the healing properties of petroleum as still used: petroleum jelly has been a staple in the medical and beauty industry for years due to its emollient properties which help the skin to heal.

petroleum jelly medicine vaseline

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