Global Costs Per Barrel of Oil Comparison
The cost of producing a barrel of oil and gas varies widely across the world, setting up winners and losers as the price of crude fluctuates at historically low levels.
By WSJ News Graphics
Last updated April 15, 2016 at 2:30 p.m. ET
The world has changed for oil producers. When crude-oil prices were more than $100 a barrel just two years ago, the ensuing profits were huge, filling government coffers and swelling company earnings. Now prices barely cover the average cost to get the oil out of the ground in places like the U.K. Additional expenses, like taxes on profits, mean that the actual breakeven price for many projects is higher, and newer and more complex projects generally fall well above the average cash cost of production. Oil-producing nations from Saudi Arabia to Norway are reining in spending while big energy firms like Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Chevron Corp. have made deep spending cuts and laid off thousands of workers. Here’s a look at the average cost of producing one barrel of oil—42 gallons—in a dozen nations.
Capital spending: 64.6% of barrel cost
Much of Norway’s remaining resources lie in remote waters and are more difficult to extract or are further from existing infrastructure and markets, resulting in higher development and transportation costs. However, the region hasn’t been in production for as long as oil and gas fields in neighboring U.K. waters, so there are still substantial resources left to extract.
Capital spending: 45.2% of barrel cost
Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, but frequent incidents of sabotage and oil theft have hindered the sector onshore. Many newer projects are focused offshore, where production is more secure but the capital investment required is higher. Earlier this year Royal Dutch Shell PLC said it would delay a decision to progress a deep water project.
Capital spending: 51.1% of barrel cost
The U.K. has some of the highest production costs in the world as the oil and gas is offshore in deep stormy waters. The region has been in production since the 1970s and remaining resources require more costly technology to extract, while aging infrastructure such as pipelines, production hubs and terminals require constant maintenance and upgrades.
Production costs: 43.4% of barrel cost
Most production growth in Canada comes from oil sands deposits in the remote boreal forests of northern Alberta, which have some of the industry’s highest capital costs and longest development timelines. Canada’s oil sands represent the third largest reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, but its crude trades at a substantial discount to other North American grades due to its low quality and limited pipeline access to market. Canada also produces declining amounts of crude oil from conventional, shale and deepwater Atlantic wells.
Production costs: 34.9% of barrel cost
Twenty-five years ago Indonesia produced close to 2 million barrels of oil a day, but production has fallen and many of its aging fields require investment to enhance recovery. New opportunities are generally more technically challenging and costlier. Tough government policies have also discouraged investment, though more recently the government has sought to introduce more generous terms.
Production costs: 24.5% of barrel cost
Drilling in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico has migrated from shallower depths to deep water, sending production costs surging as companies plumb reservoirs thousands of feet below the water’s surface. Oil production in the region peaked in 2009 at 1.56 million barrels a day, before declining for several years. However, output surged last year to 1.54 million barrels a day as several long-awaited projects came online.
Administrative/transportation costs: 27.7% of barrel cost
Saudi Arabian crude is some of the cheapest in the world to extract because of its location near the surface of the desert and the size of the fields. That makes transporting those barrels an outsized piece of its costs, on a percentage basis, compared with countries where production costs are 10 to 20 times as high.
Administrative/transportation costs: 29.4% of barrel cost
Iran is trying to revive its oil industry after more than three years of sanctions crippled its ability to export, and the country has a big advantage over many of its peers: Its oil is very cheap to produce. The Islamic Republic’s output jumped 310,000 barrels a day in February compared with two months earlier after restarting exports to the European Union, according to the International Energy Agency.
Administrative/transportation costs: 23.4% of barrel cost
Extraction of oil in Iraq, the second largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, is in theory also very cheap but there are political and security challenges that add to its transportation and administrative costs. The country is fighting a war with Islamic State on its western flank, and has lost some oil fields to the militant group. Iraq has still managed to ramp up production to record levels last year.
Cost of producing a barrel of oil
Source: Rystad Energy UCube
Gross taxes: 37.9% of barrel cost
Despite holding the world’s largest oil reserves with 298 billion barrels, Venezuela’s output has been declining in the past two years because of lower investment in its costly heavy crude reservoirs. The Latin American nation produced 2.37 million barrels a day in February, a drop of 90,000 barrels a day compared to its 2014 average, according to the International Energy Agency. Taxes in Venezuela remain among the highest in the world at 50% of profits for foreign companies, though they have fallen from 95% when oil prices were above $100 a barrel.
Gross taxes: 43.9% of barrel cost
Russian oil is among the cheapest in the world to pump thanks to plentiful onshore resources, cheap labor and a well-developed network of pipelines, processing plants and other infrastructure. But the government tax take is levied at the wellhead and on exports, pushing up the costs of producing a barrel.
Gross taxes: 19.0% of barrel cost
Brazil’s oil production fell in January by 180,000 barrels after investments in its costly deep offshore basin were hit by low oil prices and a corruption scandal. In January, the country’s state oil giant Petrobras cut its five-year investment plans through 2020 by $32 billion to $98.3 billion. The South American powerhouse has opted for a fiscal middle ground with a corporate income tax at 34% for producers, lower than Venezuela but higher than Colombia’s 25%.
Gross taxes: 27.5% of barrel cost
After years of declining output, the U.S. oil and gas industry was revived by the shale boom, which kicked off amid the Great Recession and gained steam after 2008. Advances in technology—notably, the combination of horizontal drilling and a technique known as hydraulic fracturing—allowed companies to tap vast amounts of oil and gas trapped in dense rock formations. Oil and gas taxes vary by state in the U.S., with many imposing a production or extraction tax, or otherwise using the market price of oil or gas to tax output on a specific well. Some levy impact fees or charge companies as they drill new wells.
Note: An earlier version of this graphic displayed incorrect labels for the cost to produce a barrel of oil when hovering over the bars on each chart. This version has been corrected. (April 15, 2016)
Source: Rystad Energy UCube