Data concerning the oil production of the three major oil companies is based on information from various sources. Putting it all together in one list is somewhat problematic because of the different standards of measurement and criteria used. Most importantly there are the distinctions between supply, gross production and net production. Supply signifies the total amount of oil available to the company, including purchases. Gross production is the amount of oil the company produces itself including royalties. Net production is the gross production minus the royalties. Shell only started providing net production figures in 1953, while for BP the net production figures are all we have. Understandably this makes comparing the companies difficult.
During the 1970s the data are less reliable. Uncertainties surrounding the nationalization of oil companies in this period mean that even the oil majors themselves were unsure exactly how much oil they produced. New standards were adopted and survey magazines as the Oil and Petroleum Year Book *1 started giving supply figures instead of the net production. For Shell, BP and Exxon alike, in those times of nationalization, purchases became relatively more important in comparison with their own oil production.
A further difficulty is the problem of differing standards of recording and reporting. Sometimes production is measured in metric tons a year, sometimes in barrels a day. Moreover, the number of barrels to one metric ton varies, depending on the specific gravity of the crude oil. According to Royal Dutch/Shell one barrel daily is equivalent to approximately 50 to 55 metric tons per year. All the production figures used here have been converted by the average of these two numbers; one barrel a day is taken as 52.5 metric tons per year.
Shell’s production figures are based on its Annual Reports, with the exception of its production during World War II. For wartime strategic reasons these figures were not made public in the Annual Reports, so we have compiled the missing data using information from Shell’s archive in The Hague, and they are published here for the first time*2. The comparable figures for BP are from Ferrier, The history of the British Petroleum Company, 271, 370, 601, and Bamberg, The history of the British Petroleum Company, 69 and 242; and for Standard from Hidy and Hidy, Pioneering in big business 1882-1911, 374-5; Gibb and Knowlton, The resurgent years 1911-1927, 676-7; and Larson, Knowlton and Popple,New horizons 1927-1950. World production is derived from Etemad et al., World Energy Production.
1 – Skinner, Walter E., ed., Oil and Petroleum Manual, vols. 12-18 (1921-1927); Skinner, Walter E., ed., Oil and Petroleum Year Book, vols. 19-62 (1928-1971/2); Oil and Gas International Year Book, vols. 63-67 (1973-1977); Financial Times Oil and Gas International Year Book, vols. 68-69 (1978-1999).
2 – SHA, 190C/441A, Verslag over de oorlogsperiode aan de commissarissen (1939-1945).
Excel Worksheet 1 (72 Kb) contains the tables:
1.1 Production of crude oil: the world, Royal Dutch/Shell, BP and Exxon in metric tons, 1881-2000
1.2 Crude oil production of Royal Dutch and Shell Transport in metric tons, 1893-1906
1.3 Royal Dutch/Shell: Gross output of crude oil by country (in metric tons), 1907-1969
1.4 Royal Dutch/Shell: Equity Oil by region (in metric tons), 1907-1972
1.5 Royal Dutch/Shell: Equity Oil by region (in bpd), 1978-2000
1.6 Production and total supply oil Royal Dutch/Shell in metric tons, 1945-2000
Back to the overview of the appendix to A History of Royal Dutch Shell