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The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is an inter-governmental group created in 1960 by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. It was later joined by 11 other countries and moved from Geneva to Vienna in 1965.

OPEC's objectives are to co-ordinate member oil policies in order to secure stable prices for exporters whilst ensuring regular supply to consumers and a fair return for investors. OPEC, as a swing producer, tries to do this by agreeing an oil price and restricting or releasing output (shared out on the basis of reserves) to match demand at that price.

In 2014 OPEC was unable to fill a growing supply gap even though economists believed that it held spare capacity. Higher prices then encouraged growth in US shale oil and a glut of oil appeared on the market. The oil price collapsed and OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, abandoned its policy of restricting output in the hope that the USA and other high cost oil producers would be forced by low prices to cut output (and drilling).

During this return to a market-led strategy OPEC output was boosted significantly, albeit heavily influenced by a lack of unity amongst members due to differing needs and objectives. But the oil price remained persistently low and restrictions on output were re-instated in 2016 (the first new agreement since 2008) and later extended to 2018. Some non-OPEC nations also agreed to reduce output, including Russia and Kazakhstan.

Political Group


Location of Secretariat: Vienna, Austria

Population of the group: 511 million     


A founder member of OPEC

Brief description of the group

Land area (sq kms)

Oil prod (000s b/d)

Gas prod (bcm/yr)

Oil cons (000s b/d)

Gas cons (bcm/yr)

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The Secretariat is the executive organ of OPEC in Vienna. It is responsible for the implementation of resolutions passed by the Conference, carries out decisions made by the Board of Governors, and conducts research.

The Secretariat consists of the Secretary General (CEO) and staff arranged into a Legal Division, Research Division and Support Services Division.

Members and year of joining:

Iran (1960)

Iraq (1960)

Kuwait (1960)

Saudi Arabia (1960)

Venezuela (1960)

Qatar (1961)

Libya (1962)

Indonesia (1962-2008, 2015*, 2016**)

United Arab Emirates (1967)

Algeria (1969)

Nigeria (1971)

Ecuador (1973-1992, 2007*)

Gabon (1975-1994, 2016*)

Angola (2007)

Equatorial Guinea (2017)

Congo -Brazzaville (2018)

* rejoined

** suspended after failing to agree on production cuts


Vertical axis in chart corresponds to thousands of barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Oil -  fossil oil produced from on and offshore reservoirs, including tight sands/shales; and liquids extracted from gas.

Gas - sales gas produced from on and offshore reservoirs, including tight sands/shales and coal beds.O

Full breakdowns are available in datafiles.

Vertical axis in chart corresponds to number of wells spudded in year including stand-alone sidetracks.

Wells in chart include those drilled in exploratory and development categories for oil and gas, but excluding CBM.

Full breakdowns are available in datafiles.