1. Describe the global pattern of oil production and consumption [3 + 3 marks]

(Refer to named regions of the world, country names and support your answer with data.)




CHANGES IN PRODUCTION: shift to remote or previously uneconomic sources

  • Historically, shift in production from USA > Middle East as American reserves declined
  • OPEC established in 1960 to control supply and manipulate global price. Referred to as a 'cartel'
  • Higher oil prices > countries outside Middle East search for alternative sources of oil and gas
  • Demand for oil in HIC and emerging economies remains high (Europe declining)
  • US invested heavily in fracking and offshore drilling. Canada in tar sands. Russia natural gas.
  • Increased US and Canadian oil, as well as Russian natural gas resulted in decline in oil prices, destabilising oil dependent nations e.g. Saudi Arabia and Venezuela


US oil production from 1980-2014.

US oil production from 1980-2014.

The US has increased its domestic production of oil thanks to huge investment in and expansion of fracking of US shale deposits.



Cenovus’ Christina Lake oil sands operation (source)


  • Large deposits of heavy crude oil in northeastern Canada
  • Found under 141,000 km2 of boreal forest
  • 178 billion barrels available for extraction
  • Extraction and processing extremely damaging to a sensitive (extreme) environment

Toxic Alberta - Vice Documentary


exam practice

Analyse how the global pattern of oil production has changed in recent decades [5 marks].



Answers may focus on spatial and/or temporal changes.

Answers should refer to sub-global regions in terms of how production is changing over time, and/or how it is changing as a proportion of the world total. Many responses will focus on the "peak oil" scenario.

There should be some comment on how demand and price is driving the exploitation of oil in remote and/or previously uneconomic sources, for example, further off shore or tar sands in Alberta, Canada. Award up to 2 marks for valid descriptions of changes, 2 marks for related analysis with the final 1 mark being reserved for either.

Examiners report

Weak candidates had great difficulty trying to analyse how the global pattern of oil production has changed in recent decades. In many cases production was confused with consumption and the changes in global pattern of oil production were not addressed. The best responses demonstrated very accurate and correct ideas with sound knowledge and understanding, for example, details about OPEC and production statistics; relevant descriptions of the global pattern of oil production with strong sound analysis of change (such as geopolitical issues, peak oil scenarios, exploitation/new reserves such as tar sands, conservation/secondary extraction). Unfortunately, these responses were quite rare.




  1. Download or print the document above
  2. Highlight spatial patterns in one colour
  3. Highlight temporal trends in a different colour
  4. Write a paragraph summarising this information, focus on different points of view