Interesting Oil Facts

In the 2006 debate about drilling in ANWR, I got to wondering about how much oil we were talking about. I mean, not the usual measures in terms of how many months or years supply, but what's the volume? Is it the same as a small ocean? Lake? A few football fields a couple of feet deep? I had no physical sense.

So, I started doing some calculations.

The ANWR reserve is estimated by the EIA to be about 10.4 billion barrels, or about 1.65 km3. By comparison, Oregon's Waldo Lake, next to the Three Sisters Wilderness, has a volume of about 0.95 km3. So, the entire ANWR reserve is only a little more than Lake Waldo.

I started getting interested in some other oil statistics.

The world's entire proven reserve is estimated by the EIA (March, 2009 estimate) to be about 1,250 billion barrels of oil, or about 198 km3. By comparison, Lake Tahoe has a volume of about 156 km3, about 20% less. In other words, all this fussing and fighting, all this global warming, everything, is all about a hunk of fluid slightly larger than a modest sized lake in the High Sierras.

One last number: The world's global oil consumption is about 80 million barrels of oil per day (August, 2009 estimate), or about 3,900 cubic feet per second. To give you a sense of flow, this is about the size of a nice, runnable Northwest river in the springtime!