Proved oil reserves in the United States slipped 19% over the course of 2020, from 44.2 billion barrels to 35.8 billion barrels, according to fresh data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The new EIA data shows that throughout 2020, just 3 billion barrels of proved crude oil reserves were discovered in the United States, with 1.2 billion barrels gained through adjustments, sales, and acquisitions. 8.8 billion barrels of proved reserves were lost due to net revisions, and 3.8 billion barrels were used up through the production of crude oil. The net change, according to the EIA, is 8.4 billion barrels, for a total loss of 19%.
Previous EIA data shows that this loss of 8.4 billion barrels is the largest loss of proven reserves since at least 2010. In fact, there is only one other year in the last decade where proved reserves in the United States saw a loss: 2015.
One of the main reasons behind the loss in proved reserves in 2020 was the smaller gain through extensions and discoveries. In 2020, just 3.002 billion barrels of crude oil were discovered—that’s less than half of what was discovered in 2018 or 2019.
The EIA named the COVID-19 pandemic as the main cause for the loss of proved oil reserves. With lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and travel restrictions, demand for transportation fuel dropped off dramatically. According to the EIA, “Operators revised their proved reserves downward in 2020 and postponed developmental drilling.”
Feeling the pain more acutely, Texas—the state with the largest volume of proved reserves of crude oil and lease condensate—had the largest net decrease in overall proved reserves, followed by North Dakota.
Utah, on the other hand, saw the largest net increase in proved reserves of crude oil and lease condensate.