Because of lower oil prices in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. operators reported a 19% reduction in proved reserves of crude oil and lease condensate in 2020, according to our Proved Reserves of Crude Oil and Natural Gas in the United States, Year-End 2020 report. Proved reserves totaled 38.2 billion barrels for the year.
Proved reserves are operator estimates of the volumes of oil and natural gas that geological and engineering data demonstrate with reasonable certainty to be recoverable in future years from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating conditions.
The decline in crude oil and lease condensate reserves in 2020 was largely due to lower crude oil prices: the average annual price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell from $57 per barrel (b) in 2019 to $39/b in 2020. Lower crude oil prices caused many operators to revise their estimates of proved reserves downward and scale back development plans for new wells. Higher crude oil prices in 2021 will likely lead to more reserves in 2021.