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Global Oil Facts & FAQ’s

  • ‘Petroleum,’ ‘oil’ and ‘fossil fuels.’ What’s the difference? And what about gas?

    Oils of many different kinds can be extracted from minerals, plants and animals. This website uses ‘oil’ as shorthand for what is, properly speaking, ‘petroleum.’ We also track the exploration and production of Uganda’s ‘natural gas.’

    Petroleum, natural gas and coal are the world’s main fossil fuels. They are called ‘fossil’ fuels because they were all formed, hundreds of millions of years ago and in processes

    Oils of many different kinds can be extracted from minerals, plants and animals. This website uses ‘oil’ as shorthand for what is, properly speaking, ‘petroleum.’ We also track the exploration and production of Uganda’s ‘natural gas.’

    Petroleum, natural gas and coal are the world’s main fossil fuels. They are called ‘fossil’ fuels because they were all formed, hundreds of millions of years ago and in processes that lasted many millions of years, by the compression and heating under the earth’s surface of what was once living matter: plants, plankton, and other living organisms. The element carbon is fundamental to all forms of life and carbon compounds are the energy source of these fuels formed from living matter. Read More

  • Is the world running out of oil? (And will this mean that Uganda gets a good price for it?)

    Oil wells were first sunk—from the mid-19th century, in countries ranging from Poland to the United States—mainly to obtain fuel, in the form of kerosene, for lighting. The invention of the internal combustion engine to drive ‘horseless (motor) carriages’ gave huge impetus to the oil industry. Ever more uses have since been found for the ‘black gold’ which today also fuels ships, trains, airplanes and many power stations, as well as providing raw materials for fertilisers, other chemicals and plastics.

    Not surprisingly, then, global petroleum consumption has increased steadily for 150 years. It now totals about 90 million barrels per day. Consumption seems set to keep rising as demand grows from fast developing countries in, especially, populous Asia. Yet petroleum is a finite resource and cannot last forever. Read More

  • Who are the world’s biggest oil producers and consumers?

    According to the  CIA World Factbook , 40 countries have one billion barrels of oil reserves or more.  The top ten are: Read More

  • Image: Oil rig in the North Sea

    What are the ‘natural resource curse’ and ‘Dutch disease’?

    Oil fields in the North Sea--Dutch curse, Norwegian blessing

    The phrase ‘natural resource curse,’ also sometimes called ‘the paradox of plenty,’ was originally coined by economists who found that countries with a rich endowment of natural resources tended, in the long term, to record slower economic growth than countries with fewer natural resources.

    It has since come to be used more widely and generally to describe a situation where, rather than bringing widespread benefits, the extraction of a country’s mineral, oil or gas resources causes significant harm.

    The ‘curse’ is commonly said to result from: Read More

  • Are there any ‘success stories’ of African oil production?

    It is easier to find examples of African countries that seem to be afflicted by the ‘natural resource curse.’  Africa’s largest producers—Angola, Nigeria and Sudan—are regularly cited as countries where oil production has brought harm, and the ‘curse’ label is often also applied to Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Chad. However, these countries have different histories and current situations, and their future is hard to foresee.  It is therefore perhaps too soon to say with certainty what role oil will have played in their development paths.

    As relative scarcity pushes forward exploration frontiers, many other African countries are searching for oil and gas. Read More