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Distribution of the world's known recoverable oil resources and reserves by type. Technically recoverable oil in known heavy oil and natural bitumen accumulations is about equal to reserves of light oil (API gravity greater than 220) in known conventional accumulations. BBO, billion barrels of oil.

In spite of an immense resource base, heavy oil and natural bitumen accounted for only about 15% of crude oil produced in 2006. Compared to light oil, these resources are generally more costly to produce and transport. Also, extra-heavy oil and natural bitumen must usually be upgraded by reducing their carbon content or adding hydrogen before they can be used as feedstock for a conventional refinery. The extra production, transportation, and upgrading costs explain why development and production of extra-heavy oil and bitumen are still limited. Their abundance, strategic geographic distribution, quality, and costs will shape their role in the future oil supply.

The Western Hemisphere has 69 percent of the world's technically recoverable heavy oil and 82 percent of the technically recoverable natural bitumen. In contrast, the Eastern Hemisphere has about 85 percent of the world's light oil reserves.

The estimated volume of technically recoverable heavy oil (434 billion barrels) and natural bitumen (651 billion barrels) in known accumulations is about equal to the Earth's remaining conventional

Heavy oil and natural bitumen are present worldwide . Each category is dominated by a single extraordinary accumulation. The largest extra-heavy oil accumulation is the Venezuelan Orinoco heavy-oil belt, which contains 90 percent of the world's extra-heavy oil when measured on an in-place basis. Eighty-one percent of the world's known recoverable bitumen is in the Alberta, Canada, accumulation. Together the two deposits contain about 3,600 billion barrels of oil in place.

In addition to extra-heavy Orinoco oil, South America has an estimated 40 billion barrels of technically recoverable heavy oil, so that, in total, 61 percent of the known technically recoverable heavy oil is in South America.

Of the 35 billion barrels of heavy oil estimated to be technically recoverable in North America, about 7.7 billion barrels are assigned to known producing accumulations in the lower 48 States, and 7 billion barrels are assigned to the North Slope of Alaska.

The U. S. bitumen accumulations are largely in Utah. No U. S. accumulations are being produced commercially, although, in total, they are estimated to contain 6.1 billion barrels of recoverable bitumen.