Latin American oil production is dominated by Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Columbia, and Venezuela. These countries are responsible for most of the region’s total output and are also giants on the international stage, ranking as some of the world’s top oil producers. The following list provides production figures for each of the region’s leading five oil producers and a few details about each country’s oil industry.

Key Takeaways

  • Latin America is home to many large oil-producing countries.
  • Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina account for most of the oil production in the region.
  • A large percentage of Brazil’s oil, which amounts to 2.9 million barrels per day, is produced by Petrobras.
  • Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves at more than 303 billion barrels.
  • Venezuela and Columbia are the fourth and fifth-largest oil producers in Latin America.

1. Brazil

Brazil accounts for oil production of about 2.9 million barrels per day and is the tenth-largest oil-producing country in the world. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), more than 90% of Brazil’s oil production is extracted from deep-water oil fields offshore. In addition, Brazil has nearly 13 billion barrels in proved oil reserves, which is the second-largest in Latin America after Venezuela.

Brazil exports roughly 1.6 million barrels of oil per day. The transportation sector, which represents one-third of total energy consumption in the country, is the source of the most demand for oil in Brazil.

Petroleo Brasileiro S.A., also known as Petrobras, is the biggest oil producer in Brazil by a substantial margin, accounting for more than 2 million barrels per day and over 70% of Brazil’s oil production.

2. Mexico

Mexico produces nearly 1.85 million barrels of oil per day, a reduction from past levels primarily due to declining output from maturing oil fields. From 1991 to 2010, Mexico maintained oil production above 3 million barrels per day. While Mexico maintains its position as the second-largest crude oil exporter in Latin America, it has become a net importer of refined products, primarily gasoline and diesel.

Mexico’s oil industry is monopolized by the state-owned oil and gas company Petroleos Mexicanos, also known as Pemex.

Industry reforms were initiated in 2014 in hopes of attracting greater foreign investment to reverse production declines in the country, but the reforms failed to interest many investors.

3. Argentina

Argentina produces roughly 820,000 barrels per day, making it the third-biggest oil producer in Latin America. Argentina’s Vaca Muerta (Dead Cow) shale deposit is one of the largest in the world and is expected to reach 1 million barrels per day by 2026. However, the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects oil production to reach 909,000 by December 2023. Given the recent increase in the oil production rate, it’s likely that Argentina will reach 1 million bpd before 2026.

4. Venezuela

Venezuela produces roughly 670,000 barrels of oil per day. Production in recent years is down from the prior two decades, when daily production fluctuated around the 2.5 million barrel mark, including a high of more than 3.4 million barrels per day in 1997.

“Reduced capital expenditures by state-owned oil and natural gas company Petròleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA) are resulting in foreign partners continuing to cut activities in the oil sector, making crude oil production losses increasingly widespread. With Venezuela’s heavy dependency on the oil industry, the country’s economy will likely continue to shrink, and that the runaway inflation will remain the mainstay at least in the short term.”

Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. was established in 1976 immediately after the nationalization of the oil industry. In the 1990s, reforms were introduced to liberalize the industry, but policy instability has been the norm in the years since, especially after President Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999.

In 2006, Chavez introduced policies that required renegotiation of existing joint ventures with international oil companies. International operators were required to grant a 60% minimum share of every project to Petroleos de Venezuela. More than a dozen international companies, including Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell, acceded to the demands. The Venezuelan operations of two companies—Total S.A. and Eni S.p.A.—were nationalized after negotiations failed. Other international companies chose to exit Venezuela soon after, including Exxon Mobil Corporation and ConocoPhillips Co.

Venezuela has more than 303 billion barrels in proved oil reserves—the largest in the world.

5. Colombia

Columbia accounts for the production of just under 770,000 barrels of oil per day. The country has suffered production losses, reducing output from over 800,000 barrels per day in 2010. According to the EIA, recent levels reflect infrastructure issues caused by attacks on Columbian pipelines and oil fields since 2019.

The Colombian oil and gas industry is controlled by Ecopetrol S.A., a state-owned oil and gas company and industry regulator. Headquartered in Bogota, Ecopetrol produced more than 679,000 barrels of oil per day, approximately 88% of Colombian production.

Which South American Country Has the Most Oil?

Venezuela has the most proved oil reserves in South America, estimated at more than 303 billion barrels.

Does South America Have any Oil Reserves?

Venezuela has the largest proved reserves, followed by Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, and Columbia.

Is South America Rich in Oil?

South America has a significant amount of oil, and more deposits are being discovered as time passes. For example, the Vaca Muerta deposit was further explored in 2010, and the discovery of the large shale deposit was reported to the Buenas Aires stock exchange in 2011.

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