The Future of Global Coal Production Visualized
Coal is the world’s most affordable energy fuel, and as such, the world’s biggest commodity market for electricity generation.
Unfortunately, that low-cost energy comes at a high cost for the environment, with coal being the largest source of energy-related CO2 emissions.
Despite its large footprint, coal was in high demand in 2021. As economies reopened following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries struggled to meet resurgent energy needs. As a readily available low-cost energy source, coal filled the supply gap, with global coal consumption increasing by 450 million tonnes or around +6% in 2021.
This graphic looks at the IEA’s coal production forecasts for 2024, and the specific countries projected to reduce or increase their production over the next few years.
Which Countries Are Increasing (or Reducing) Coal Production?
Global coal production was a topic of scrutiny at the COP26 conference held in November of 2021, where 40 countries pledged to stop issuing permits and direct government support for new coal-fired power plants.
However, many of the top coal-producing countries did not commit to the pledge. China, the U.S., India, Russia, and Australia abstained, and of those five, only the U.S. is forecasted to reduce coal production in the next two years.
|Country||Coal Production (2021)||Coal Production (2024F)||Share (2024F)||Change (2021–2024F)|
|🇨🇳 China||3,925 Mt||3,982 Mt||50%||+57 Mt|
|🇮🇳 India||793 Mt||955 Mt||12%||+162 Mt|
|🇮🇩 Indonesia||576 Mt||570 Mt||7%||-6 Mt|
|🇺🇸 United States||528 Mt||484 Mt||6%||-44 Mt|
|🇦🇺 Australia||470 Mt||477 Mt||6%||+7 Mt|
|🇷🇺 Russia||429 Mt||445 Mt||5%||+16 Mt|
|🇪🇺 European Union||329 Mt||247 Mt||3%||-82 Mt|
|🌐 Other||839 Mt||855 Mt||11%||+16 Mt|
With 15 EU countries signing the pledge, the European Union is forecasted to see the greatest drop in coal production at 82 million tonnes, along with the greatest forecasted reduction in coal consumption (101 million tonnes, a 23% reduction).
Reducing Coal-Fired Power Generation in the U.S.
The U.S. and Indonesia are the other two major producers forecasted to reduce their reliance on coal. The U.S. is projected to cut coal production by 7.5% or 44 million tonnes, while Indonesia’s reduction is forecasted at 6 million tonnes, or just a 1% cut of its 2021 production.
Despite not joining the COP26 pledge, the U.S. is still noticeably pursuing short and long-term initiatives to reduce coal-fired power generation.
In fact, 85% of U.S. electric generating capacity retirements in 2022 are forecast to be coal-fired generators, and there are further plans to retire 28% (59 GW) of currently operational coal-fired capacity by 2035.
Coal Makes Energy Ends Meet in China and India
Modern consumption and production are instead focused in Asia.
China and India produce almost 60% of the world’s coal, and are expected to increase their production by more than 200 million tonnes per year, collectively. All this coal goes towards meeting the insatiable energy demands of both nations.
While China has pledged to start cutting down coal consumption in 2026, the country also announced the construction of 43 new coal-fired power plants to meet energy demand until then. Part of the additional production is driven by a need to reduce the country’s dependence on coal imports, which are expected to drop by 51 million tonnes or 16% from 2021–2024.
By 2024, China’s coal consumption is forecasted to rise by 3.3% and India’s by 12.2%, which would make the two countries responsible for two-thirds of the world’s coal consumption.
Visualizing the Scale of Global Fossil Fuel Production
How much oil, coal, and natural gas do we extract each year? See the scale of annual fossil fuel production in perspective.
The Scale of Global Fossil Fuel Production
Fossil fuels have been our predominant source of energy for over a century, and the world still extracts and consumes a colossal amount of coal, oil, and gas every year.
This infographic visualizes the volume of global fossil fuel production in 2021 using data from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy.
The Facts on Fossil Fuels
In 2021, the world produced around 8 billion tonnes of coal, 4 billion tonnes of oil, and over 4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.
Most of the coal is used to generate electricity for our homes and offices and has a key role in steel production. Similarly, natural gas is a large source of electricity and heat for industries and buildings. Oil is primarily used by the transportation sector, in addition to petrochemical manufacturing, heating, and other end uses.
Here’s a full breakdown of coal, oil, and gas production by country in 2021.
If all the coal produced in 2021 were arranged in a cube, it would measure 2,141 meters (2.1km) on each side—more than 2.5 times the height of the world’s tallest building.
China produced 50% or more than four billion tonnes of the world’s coal in 2021. It’s also the largest consumer of coal, accounting for 54% of coal consumption in 2021.
|Rank||Country||2021 Coal Production|
|% of Total|
|#7||🇿🇦 South Africa||234.5||3%|
India is both the second largest producer and consumer of coal. Meanwhile, Indonesia is the world’s largest coal exporter, followed by Australia.
In the West, U.S. coal production was down 47% as compared to 2011 levels, and the descent is likely to continue with the clean energy transition.
In 2021, the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia were the three largest crude oil producers, respectively.
|Rank||Country||2021 Oil Production |
|% of Total|
|#3||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||515.0||12%|
OPEC countries, including Saudi Arabia, made up the largest share of production at 35% or 1.5 billion tonnes of oil.
U.S. oil production has seen significant growth since 2010. In 2021, the U.S. extracted 711 million tonnes of oil, more than double the 333 million tonnes produced in 2010.
Natural Gas Production
The world produced 4,036 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2021. The above graphic converts that into an equivalent of seven billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to visualize it on the same scale as oil and gas.
Here are the top 10 producers of natural gas in 2021:
|Rank||Country||2021 Natural Gas Production |
|% of Total|
|#8||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||117.3||3%|
The U.S. was the largest producer, with Texas and Pennsylvania accounting for 47% of its gas production. The U.S. electric power and industrial sectors account for around one-third of domestic natural gas consumption.
Russia, the next-largest producer, was the biggest exporter of gas in 2021. It exported an estimated 210 billion cubic meters of natural gas via pipelines to Europe and China. Around 80% of Russian natural gas comes from operations in the Arctic region.
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