Looking for the word or phrase that means how many barrels of oil we produce from one barrel of oil.

Question is in title. My searching is actually rather disturbing this morning as the results are fillled with industry fud and not what im looking for. What im really trying to find is a graph of oil produced historically because I recall we used to get something like a 50 barrel return but now we get single digits.

Edited - thanks for the info. kbin has an issue or at least my account does for some magazines where I can't see any replies when logged in so I can see it from a non logged in browser but can't reply so im replying in my post. EROI fits what I was looking for but if anyone finds a nice historical chart for it specifically with oil that would be great but with the EROI term I think I will be able to find it.


I’m coming late to the party but hope I can still help. As someone already noted in this thread, the relevant metric is the EROI, the Energy Return On Investment. It is the ratio of the amount of usable energy that can be extracted from a particular energy source over the amount of energy required to extract, process, and distribute that energy source.

Naturally, a high EROI value indicates a high energy-efficient method, while a low value suggests that more energy is being invested in the energy-production process than what is gained from the produced energy.

The Journal of Petroleum Technology wrote in an article this year:

The EROI values are presented as unitless ratios. For example, hydroelectric power and nuclear power have one of the highest EROIs, with estimates ranging from 30 to 100. EROI estimates for wind power range from 18 to 50.

Solar and biomass energy have low EROIs, with estimates ranging from 2.5 to 10 depending on the specific technology and location. The EROI for oil is estimated to be between 4 and 30, depending on the specific location and type of oil. Natural gas has a higher EROI than oil, with estimates ranging from 20 to 40.

Higher EROI value indicates a more energy-efficient method, while lower value suggests that more energy is being invested in the energy-production process than is ultimately gained from the produced energy.

One study from 2015 says:

We find that the maximum EROI of global oil and gas productions have respectively reached the values of 73:1 in 1931 and 200:1 in 1945, which is in line with previous studies that had hypothesized such results.

It’s a more complex issue than it may seem at first sight, imho, as we may include other metrixs into our analyses. For exampke, if we don’t account for costs (and other factors) of nuclear waste storage and disposal, the EROI might be strongly misleading. As always, I would opt for a dashboard of metrics.

HubertManne avatar

thank you so much. that paper was what I was looking for which shows oil sorta dropped to a return of 10 before fracking and now that fracking is drying up its basically returned. The sorta peak oil thing.


Glad to help :-)

ShaunaTheDead avatar

I think you might have made a typo in the title because wouldn't 1 barrel of oil produce 1 barrel of oil since they're the same thing, or do you mean gasoline?

TauZero, (edited )

I think they mean all the gasoline/oil/energy consumed by heavy machinery like refineries, tanker ships, mining derricks, drillers, prospectors, etc. to manufacture one barrel of finished oil.

Edit: found the term OP is looking for: energy returned on energy invested (ERoEI). It used to be “18 to 43” for conventional oil drilling, but can be as low as 1.5 for the new oil shale extraction, due to needing to burn large amounts of methane gas to heat the ground to free up the oil.


I think they’re talking about using the energy produced from that barrel of oil to extract more oil.

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