*(Infographic caption: The provided image visualises the volume of global fossil fuel production, taken from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy in 2021)
For over a century, fossils fuels have been the predominant source of energy around the world, and even in 2023, energy providers are still extracting and consuming a colossal amount of coal, oil and gas every single year. This week at Clean Energy Capital, we sat down to examine some of the statistics, data and insights collated from the 2021 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, and to truly grasp the sheer, shocking scale of this unsustainable fuel production industry.
Through the data collected in the BP report, it was estimated that 8 billion tonnes of coal, 4 billion tonnes of oil and over 4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas were produced in one year alone. With the majority of the coal and natural gas produced being used to generate for our homes and workplaces, the fossil fuels were distributed between domestic and industrial areas, including steel production and construction. The oil sourced was largely used in the transportation and manufacturing sectors, being applied and distributed to many different regions and industries throughout the world.
We’ve collated the data and shared our findings:
Global Coal Production Analysis
If all of the coal produced in 2021 were arranged and displayed as a cube, it would measure 2141 meters (2.1km) on each side. The Burj Kalifa, currently listed as the largest building in the world, would stand 2.5 times smaller than this projected shape.
Coal production can be linked to a number of different countries and sites, with China leading the production rates - generating more than four billion tonnes of the world’s coal in 2021. This equates to 50% of the total coal produced in that year alone. China is also the world’s leading consumer of coal, accounting for 54% of all coal used over the specific period.
China is closely followed by India, the second-largest worldwide producer and consumer of coal. Additionally, Indonesia and Australia also ranked highly as the first and second largest coal exporters across the globe.
In the West, it’s clear that the transition to cleaner energy consumption and production has already made an impact, with U.S. coal production down 47% compared to 2011 levels. Modern movements towards sustainability, ethical living and eco-friendly alternatives have been a driving force to reduce the production and consumption of harmful coal generation.
The U.S. was also the largest producer of natural gas, with Texas and Pennsylvania accounting for 47% of their total gas production. The American electrical power and industrial sectors are responsible for consuming around one-third of all domestic natural gas produced.
Global Crude Oil Production
With the exact total of 2021 oil production standing at 4221.4 million tonnes, the scale of the industry is colossal.
Despite shifts in attitude towards coal production, America still remains one of the leading producers of crude oil, and in 2021, they extracted over 711 million tonnes of oil, more than doubling their production figures from 2010.
Russia and Saudi Arabia also produced significant amounts of crude oil in the recorded months, with OPEC countries making up the largest share of production at 35% or 1.5 billion tonnes of oil.
Global Natural Gas Production
In 2021, the world produced a staggering 4036 billion cubic meters of natural gas. The graph provided compares the equivalent of seven billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to visualize it on the same scale as crude oil and coal.
Again, Russia and America remain the leaders of natural gas production, with Texas and Pennsylvania accounting for 47% of all U.S. gas production. Distributing this gas between the electric power and industrial sectors, these sectors account for one-third of domestic natural gas production.
Russia, meanwhile, generated around 80% of their natural gas from operations in the Arctic region and exported an estimated 210 billion cubic meters of natural gas through pipelines to China and Europe.
The figures provided demonstrate a top-level view of the scale of fossil fuel production in 2021 yet the real impact of these industries is still being uncovered. At CEC, we believe that it’s our responsibility to highlight the importance and negative impact of fossil fuels in 2023 and to actively work to rectify the damage caused by these global producers. We know there are cleaner and safer alternatives out there, and the more we can do to educate the public about them, the better chance we have of changing things for the better.
*Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) presented for visualization purposes. The volume of natural gas produced in its gaseous state is 584 times higher.
*Crude oil and coal production eures were converted tromconnes to cubic meters using densities of 850kg/m for oil and 833kg/m for coal.
*Natural gas (NG) production was converted to liquefied natural gas (LNG) by multiplying the volume by 0.00163.