Analysis of trends in global oil reserves, production, and consumption

This page is authored by Scott Cummings
Kenyon College, Department of Chemistry
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Students explore data in the most recent annual BP Statistical Review of Energy to analyze trends in oil reserves, production, and consumption of various nations. This is one part of a larger problem set on global energy issues

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Learning Goals

To recognize the distinction between amounts of an energy source and the rate at which it is being consumed; to recognize the tremendous inequities in rates of oil consumption among populations, and the tremendous inequities in amounts of oil reserves (and their locations); to appreciate the the current trend in oil consumption for the U.S. (and likely for the world) is unsustainable.

Context for Use

This is part of the first problem set for students enrolled in CHEM 108: Solar Energy, a non-majors course in chemistry. A look at U.S. and global oil supplies is part of in-class discussion prior to this assignment. Internet access to the BP website is needed. The large data set offers students the opportunity to explore quantitatively and qualitatively numerous questions about national and global energy systems.

Description and Teaching Materials

Students open the data set for the most recent annual the BP Statistical Review of Energy and use the Energy Charting Tool to compare various data sets (proved oil reserves for various nations; trends in proved oil reserves vs. oil consumption for various nations) and how these data can quantify the degree of oil imports or exports. CHEM 108 global oil exercise (Acrobat (PDF) 193kB Jun28 12)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Some students find the website difficult to use; so having available individual data sets or graphs related to particular questions may save time.


Quiz and exam questions ask students to evaluate a data set NOT included in this exercise, so assess if they understand the concepts of peak oil production, can quantify imports/exports, and can predict trends in imports/exports.

References and Resources

Data included in the exercise originates from the BP Statistical Review of Energy