A Visual Crash Course on Geothermal Energy
Geothermal is a lesser-known type of renewable energy that uses heat from the Earth’s molten core to produce electricity.
While this unique feature gives it key benefits over solar and wind, it also suffers from high costs and geographic restrictions. Because of this, few countries have managed to produce geothermal energy at scale.
In this infographic, we’ve used a combination of diagrams and charts to give you a high level overview of this sustainable energy source.
How Geothermal Works
Geothermal energy is produced by accessing reservoirs of hot water that are found several miles below the earth’s surface. In certain parts of the planet, this water naturally breaks through the surface, creating what’s known as a hot spring (or in some cases, a geyser).
When accessed via a well, this pressurized water rises up and rapidly expands into steam. That steam is used to spin a turbine, which then drives an electric generator.
Further along the process, excess steam is condensed back into water as it passes through a cooling tower. An injection well pumps this water back into the Earth to ensure sustainability.
Where Is Geothermal Energy Being Used?
As of 2021, global geothermal power generation amounted to 16 gigawatts (GW). Only a handful of countries have surpassed the 1GW milestone.
|Country||Installed Capacity (GW)|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||1|
|🌎 Rest of World||1.1|
To give these numbers context, consider the following datapoints:
- America’s 3.7 GW capacity is split across 61 geothermal plants.
- The world’s largest solar plant, the Bhadla Solar Park, has a maximum output of 2.2 GW
- The world’s largest hydroelectric plant, the Three Gorges Dam, can produce up to 22.5 GW
While geothermal plants clearly produce less power, they do have benefits over other types of renewables. For example, geothermal energy is not impacted by day-night cycles, weather conditions, or seasons.
The Big Picture
We now look at a second dataset, which shows the global contribution of each type of renewable energy. These figures are as of April 2022, and were sourced from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
|Type||Installed Capacity (% of total)||Installed Capacity (GW)|
*Geothermal’s total capacity in this dataset differs from the previous value of 16GW. This is due to differing sources and rounding.
One reason for the slow adoption of geothermal energy is that they can only be built in regions that have suitable geological features (such as places where there is volcanic activity).
To expand on that point, consider the following data from Fitch Solutions, which shows the forecasted growth of geothermal energy capacity by region.
Fitch believes that over the next decade, the majority of new geothermal capacity will be installed in Asia. On the flipside, investment in North America and Western Europe (NAWE) is expected to decrease.
Over the coming years, NAWE will experience a gradual slowdown in geothermal capacity additions as we expect that investments will be crowded out by cheaper wind and solar projects.
– Fitch Solutions
The top markets for geothermal are expected to be Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Zealand, which all lie along the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire is a path along the Pacific Ocean where the majority of volcanic activity occurs.
Charted: The World’s Biggest Oil Producers
Just three countries—the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Russia—make up the lion’s share of global oil supply. Here are the biggest oil producers in 2022.
Charted: The World’s Biggest Oil Producers in 2022
In 2022 oil prices peaked at more than $100 per barrel, hitting an eight-year high, after a full year of turmoil in the energy markets in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Oil companies doubled their profits and the economies of the biggest oil producers in the world got a major boost.
But which countries are responsible for most of the world’s oil supply? Using data from the Statistical Review of World Energy by the Energy Institute, we’ve visualized and ranked the world’s biggest oil producers.
Ranked: Oil Production By Country, in 2022
The U.S. has been the world’s biggest oil producer since 2018 and continued its dominance in 2022 by producing close to 18 million barrels per day (B/D). This accounted for nearly one-fifth of the world’s oil supply.
Almost three-fourths of the country’s oil production is centered around five states: Texas, New Mexico, North Dakota, Alaska, and Colorado.
We rank the other major oil producers in the world below.
|YoY Change||Share of
|2||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||12,136||+10.8%||12.9%|
|36||🇸🇸 South Sudan||141||-7.6%||0.2%|
|51||Other Middle East||210||+1.2%||0.2%|
|54||Other Asia Pacific||177||-10.6%||0.2%|
|55||Other S. &|
Behind America’s considerable lead in oil production, Saudi Arabia (ranked 2nd) produced 12 million B/D, accounting for about 13% of global supply.
Russia came in third with 11 million B/D in 2022. Together, these top three oil producing behemoths, along with Canada (4th) and Iraq (5th), make up more than half of the entire world’s oil supply.
Meanwhile, the top 10 oil producers, including those ranked 6th to 10th—China, UAE, Iran, Brazil, and Kuwait—are responsible for more than 70% of the world’s oil production.
Notably, all top 10 oil giants increased their production between 2021–2022, and as a result, global output rose 4.2% year-on-year.
Major Oil Producing Regions in 2022
The Middle East accounts for one-third of global oil production and North America makes up almost another one-third of production. The Commonwealth of Independent States—an organization of post-Soviet Union countries—is another major regional producer of oil, with a 15% share of world production.
|YoY Change||Share of
|South & Central|
What’s starkly apparent in the data however is Europe’s declining share of oil production, now at 3% of the world’s supply. In the last 20 years the EU’s oil output has dropped by more than 50% due to a variety of factors, including stricter environmental regulations and a shift to natural gas.
Another lens to look at regional production is through OPEC members, which control about 35% of the world’s oil output and about 70% of the world’s oil reserves.
When taking into account the group of 10 oil exporting countries OPEC has relationships with, known as OPEC+, the share of oil production increases to more than half of the world’s supply.
Oil’s Big Balancing Act
Since it’s the very lifeblood of the modern economy, the countries that control significant amounts of oil production also reap immense political and economic benefits. Entire regions have been catapulted into prosperity and wars have been fought over the control of the resource.
At the same time, the ongoing effort to pivot to renewable energy is pushing many major oil exporters to diversify their economies. A notable example is Saudi Arabia, whose sovereign wealth fund has invested in companies like Uber and WeWork.
However, the world still needs oil, as it supplies nearly one-third of global energy demand.
Culture3 weeks ago
Ranked: Which Countries Drink the Most Beer?
Money6 days ago
Mapped: The Migration of the World’s Millionaires in 2023
Maps2 weeks ago
Mapped: The Deadliest Earthquakes of the 21st Century
Countries5 days ago
Charted: The World’s Biggest Oil Producers
Inequality4 weeks ago
Visualizing the World’s Growing Millionaire Population (2012-2022)
Energy2 weeks ago
What Electricity Sources Power the World?
Technology3 days ago
Which Companies Own the Most Satellites?
Wealth4 weeks ago
Mapped: The Richest Billionaires in U.S. States