I am searching for scientific or statistical sources for data on petroleum production in Japan from 1920 till 1945. I had found some statistics in League of Nations Statistical Bulletins, but there is no information on the period from 1941 to 1945. I also checked luzinde.com from this question: Where did Japan get their oil during WWII?

There are some numbers but they have two problems. Firstly, they don't match with League of Nations data, and secondly, I cannot find sources on the website (probably because of the language barrier). So, if somebody can help me with reliable sources, I would appreciate a lot.


2 Answers 2


Our World in Data shows Japan as a graphable country for oil production going back to 1900. It looks like they get that data from The Shift Dataportal. They in turn appear to have gotten their data for the periods you are interested in from:

Etemad & Luciani for the period 1900-1980 Bouda Etemad and Jean Luciani, World Energy Production 1900 – 1985, ISBN 2-600-56007-6, Data digitalized and published with agreement of B. Etemad

FWIW, the result (reported on OWID in TWh) is roughly 4-3 for the duration of the war, which is dwarfed by the USA's 20,00-26,000.

I'm not sure the story here is very interesting, other than their production seems to have (unsurprisingly) dropped a bit as the war wore on. It never was a whole lot to start with though.

enter image description here

You'd think you might get a more useful image with the U.S. (producing at 5.5 times U.S.S.R. and 6.5. times Venezuela in the late 1930's) removed, but you don't really: enter image description here

I found you pretty much have to remove everyone else to see any movement in the graph, that's how tiny it is. But if you do so, and adjust to only inlcude the immedite pre- and post-war era, you get this:

enter image description here

One could argue I suppose that their declining domestic oil production starting around 1940 may have been behind their desperation during that period to acquire more such resources abroad. But realisticaly, it was already so tiny that they had to be reliant on imports to satisfy their needs, and an extra couple of TWh here or there probably didn't make that much difference to their thinking. This is really just a noise graph.

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    Of course the next reasonable question would be where Etemad & Luciani got their data from.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 10, 2023 at 20:55
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    Japan's one and only oil field is Niitsu Oil Field, operating from 1874 until 1996 with a peak annual production, in 1917, of 120,000 kiloliters, equivalent to 755,000 bbl. Apr 11, 2023 at 10:02
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    @PieterGeerkens - Its possible they also had an odd pumpjack here or there pumping away, like we do in seemingly random places here in Oklahoma. But either way, I'm not sure the 2-3 TWH difference in the data is worth losing too much sleep over, when their wartime opponent was measuring it in the 10s of thousands.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 11, 2023 at 13:19
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    I'll leave the extra graph in (becase I love graphs. More is always good! Thanks!) but I don't believe it is actually any "more useful" for the goal of showing Japan's oil production output, because its still so dwarfed by everyone else that it looks like a straight line on the axis unless you squint at it. Perhaps if we took off Venezuela, the USSR, Argentina, and Iran as well ...
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 11, 2023 at 13:25
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    @PieterGeerkens - I've just kept it, then added another that shows just Japan. I found that even removing all but the next lowest producer still was drawing Japan across the axis.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 11, 2023 at 15:10

Good source for basic oil production during the WW2 years might be the US Strategic Bombing Survey – The Effect of Strategic Bombing on Japan’s War Economy; pages 30, 80, and 134-144 discuss various facets of POL production, refining and consumption, for example:


There is also US Strategic Bombing Survey – Oil in Japan’s War, this a copy from the Japanese archives which probably has more than that for which you are looking .

In fact if you go here to the Japanese archives you can find all sorts of interesting POL related reports (scroll down past the search interface for a list of 700 plus items).

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    Page 19 states: "Japan entered the war with refining capacity of about 090,000 barrels per day, 17 times what was needed to process its indigenous production." By my math that comes to 3 to 4 TWH annually @T.E.D. Apr 11, 2023 at 15:37
  • @PieterGeerkens - Interesting. So are you thinking they were refining imported crude to make up the difference? Or just that the 4TWh number was for refining capacity and not what they were actually refining?
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 11, 2023 at 15:59
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    @T.E.D.: No, I did the calculation of 90,000 bbl/day * 365 days/year / 17 ~ 3-4 TWH after conversion. I'm not sure that statement is completely consistent with the rest of the document (I'm now headed off to work) but it is consistent with your claim, and may be it's original source. And: todays's my lucky day, because page 19 is the very first "random page in middle of document" I clicked on when I couldn't figure out how to scroll through the document sensibly. Apr 11, 2023 at 16:07
  • I don't know nothing from nothing about oil production/consumption, but if you scroll down to the right of the link page you can, with some deft selections, down load the entire document as a pdf
    – R Leonard
    Apr 11, 2023 at 17:49

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