Fossil fuels are the cornerstone of our industrialized modern world. Some 80 percent of the global energy consumption still comes from resources such as crude oil, natural gas, and coal. Fossil fuels originate from dead plant and animal matter decomposed anaerobically over millions of years under heat and pressure. Due to the time needed for each fuel type to be formed they are deemed non-renewable.
Fossil fuel burning is a main contributor to global warming and thus climate change. As a result, many governments and institutions have introduced measures to reduce their use. Nevertheless, oil production remains at an all-time high, tipping over the 100 million barrels per day mark.
Following the development of unconventional extraction methods, such as fracking, the U.S. has become the largest oil and natural gas producing country in the world. Historically, OPEC has been the most important oil provider, with production cuts immediately impacting oil prices across the globe. Today, the consortium of mostly African and Middle Eastern countries accounts for 38 percent of global oil production.
Oil is arguably the most versatile fossil fuel. Used primarily as a feedstock for transportation fuels and within the petrochemical industry, oil demand is hugely indicative of overall economic performance. 2020 was the first year since the 2009 recession that demand decreased following the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, natural gas use has reached record-highs in recent years, with many governments favoring its use in the power sector over more emission-intensive coal.
Although historically a major contributor to the global economy, the role of the coal mining industry has declined notably. In the United Kingdom, where the mass mining of coal fueled the Industrial Revolution, the number of active coal mines has fallen to an all-time low. But whereas many governments are saying their goodbyes to the heavily polluting industry sector, developing countries are utilizing its comparatively cheap conversion rate to feed their growing power demand.
The technological exploitation of fossil fuels was a crucial requirement for the Industrial Revolution. Some of today’s largest companies, such as ExxonMobil, are fossil fuel producers that can trace their roots back to those times. ExxonMobil used to be the largest oil supermajor for many years before China’s ever-growing thirst for oil turned two state-owned enterprises into the world’s largest oil and gas companies – Sinopec and China National Petroleum Corporation.
The fossil fuel category provides statistics and reports on the upstream sector of the three major fuel types – crude oil, natural gas, and coal. Included is information on reserves and production in various countries, company data, and related rankings.