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A Lifetime’s Consumption of Fossil Fuels, Visualized



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A Lifetime’s Consumption of Fossil Fuels, Visualized

Visualizing the Fossil Fuels we Consume in a Lifetime

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From burning natural gas to heat our homes to the petroleum-based materials found in everyday products like pharmaceuticals and plastics, we all consume fossil fuels in one form or another.

In 2021, the world consumed nearly 490 exajoules of fossil fuels, an unfathomable figure of epic proportions.

To put fossil fuel consumption into perspective on a more individual basis, this graphic visualizes the average person’s fossil fuel use over a lifetime of 80 years using data from the National Mining Association and BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy.

How Many Fossil Fuels a Person Consumes Every Year

On a day-to-day basis, our fossil fuel consumption might seem minimal, however, in just a year the average American consumes more than 23 barrels of petroleum products like gasoline, propane, or jet fuel.

The cube of the average individual’s yearly petroleum product consumption reaches around 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) tall. When you consider varying transportation choices and lifestyles, from public transit to private jets, the yearly cube of petroleum product consumption for some people may easily overtake their height.

annual fossil fuel consumption

To calculate the volume needed to visualize the petroleum products and coal cubes (natural gas figures were already in volume format), we used the densities of bulk bituminous coal (833kg/m3) and petroleum products (800kg/m3) along with the weights of per capita consumption in the U.S. from the National Mining Association.

These figures are averages, and can differ per person depending on a region’s energy mix, transportation choices, and consumption habits, along with other factors.

Global Fossil Fuel Consumption Rebounds Post-Pandemic

When the global economy reopened post-pandemic, energy demand and consumption rebounded past 2019 levels with fossil fuels largely leading the way. While global primary energy demand grew 5.8% in 2021, coal consumption rose by 6% reaching highs not seen since 2014.

In 2021, renewables and hydroelectricity made up nearly 14% of the world’s primary energy use, with fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal) accounting for 82% (down from 83% in 2020), and nuclear energy accounting for the remaining 4%.

Recent demand for fossil fuels has been underpinned by their reliability as generating energy from renewables in Germany has been inconsistent when it’s been needed most.

Now the country grapples with energy rations as it restarts coal-fired power plants in response to its overdependence on Russian fossil fuel energy as the potential permanence of the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline shutdown looms.

Growing Green Energy Amidst Geopolitical Instability

Domestic energy and material supply chain independence quickly became a top priority for many nations amidst Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Western trade sanctions, and increasingly unpredictable COVID-19 lockdowns in China.

Trade and energy dependence risks still remain a major concern as many nations transition towards renewable energy. For example, essential rare earth mineral production, and solar PV manufacturing supply chains remain dominated by China.

Despite looming storm clouds over global energy and materials trade, renewable energy’s green linings are growing on the global scale. The world’s renewable primary energy consumption reached an annual growth rate of 15%, outgrowing all other energy fuels as wind and solar provided a milestone 10% of global electricity in 2021.

If the global energy mix continues to get greener fast enough, the cubes of our personal fossil fuel consumption may manage to get smaller in the future.

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Visualizing the Uranium Mining Industry in 3 Charts

These visuals highlight the uranium mining industry and its output, as well as the trajectory of nuclear energy from 1960 to today.



When uranium was discovered in 1789 by Martin Heinrich Klaproth, it’s likely the German chemist didn’t know how important the element would become to human life.

Used minimally in glazing and ceramics, uranium was originally mined as a byproduct of producing radium until the late 1930s. However, the discovery of nuclear fission, and the potential promise of nuclear power, changed everything.

What’s the current state of the uranium mining industry? This series of charts from Truman Du highlights production and the use of uranium using 2021 data from the World Nuclear Association (WNA) and Our World in Data.

Who are the Biggest Uranium Miners in the World?

Most of the world’s biggest uranium suppliers are based in countries with the largest uranium deposits, like Australia, Kazakhstan, and Canada.

The largest of these companies is Kazatomprom, a Kazakhstani state-owned company that produced 25% of the world’s new uranium supply in 2021.

A donut chart showing the biggest uranium mining companies and the percentage they contribute to the world's supply of uranium.

As seen in the above chart, 94% of the roughly 48,000 tonnes of uranium mined globally in 2021 came from just 13 companies.

Rank Company2021 Uranium Production (tonnes)Percent of Total
1🇰🇿 Kazatomprom 11,85825%
2🇫🇷 Orano 4,5419%
3🇷🇺 Uranium One 4,5149%
4🇨🇦 Cameco 4,3979%
5🇨🇳 CGN 4,1129%
6🇺🇿 Navoi Mining3,5007%
7🇨🇳 CNNC 3,5627%
8🇷🇺 ARMZ 2,6355%
9🇦🇺 General Atomics/Quasar 2,2415%
10🇦🇺 BHP 1,9224%
11🇬🇧 Energy Asia 9002%
12🇳🇪 Sopamin 8092%
13🇺🇦 VostGok 4551%

France’s Orano, another state-owned company, was the world’s second largest producer of uranium at 4,541 tonnes.

Companies rounding out the top five all had similar uranium production numbers to Orano, each contributing around 9% of the global total. Those include Uranium One from Russia, Cameco from Canada, and CGN in China.

Where are the Largest Uranium Mines Found?

The majority of uranium deposits around the world are found in 16 countries with Australia, Kazakhstan, and Canada accounting for for nearly 40% of recoverable uranium reserves.

But having large reserves doesn’t necessarily translate to uranium production numbers. For example, though Australia has the biggest single deposit of uranium (Olympic Dam) and the largest reserves overall, the country ranks fourth in uranium supplied, coming in at 9%.

Here are the top 10 uranium mines in the world, accounting for 53% of the world’s supply.

A map of the largest mines and countries that undertake uranium mining.

Of the largest mines in the world, four are found in Kazakhstan. Altogether, uranium mined in Kazakhstan accounted for 45% of the world’s uranium supply in 2021.

Uranium MineCountryMain Owner2021 Production
Cigar Lake🇨🇦 CanadaCameco/Orano4,693t
Inkai 1-3🇰🇿 KazakhstanKazaktomprom/Cameco3,449t
Husab🇳🇦 NamibiaSwakop Uranium (CGN)3,309t
Karatau (Budenovskoye 2)🇰🇿 KazakhstanUranium One/Kazatomprom2,561t
Rössing🇳🇦 NamibiaCNNC2,444t
Four Mile🇦🇺 AustraliaQuasar2,241t
SOMAIR🇳🇪 NigerOrano1,996t
Olympic Dam🇦🇺 AustraliaBHP Billiton1,922t
Central Mynkuduk🇰🇿 KazakhstanOrtalyk1,579t
Kharasan 1🇰🇿 KazakhstanKazatomprom/Uranium One1,579t

Namibia, which has two of the five largest uranium mines in operation, is the second largest supplier of uranium by country, at 12%, followed by Canada at 10%.

Interestingly, the owners of these mines are not necessarily local. For example, France’s Orano operates mines in Canada and Niger. Russia’s Uranium One operates mines in Kazakhstan, the U.S., and Tanzania. China’s CGN owns mines in Namibia.

And despite the African continent holding a sizable amount of uranium reserves, no African company placed in the top 10 biggest companies by production. Sopamin from Niger was the highest ranked at #12 with 809 tonnes mined.

Uranium Mining and Nuclear Energy

Uranium mining has changed drastically since the first few nuclear power plants came online in the 1950s.

For 30 years, uranium production grew steadily due to both increasing demand for nuclear energy and expanding nuclear arsenals, eventually peaking at 69,692 tonnes mined in 1980 at the height of the Cold War.

Nuclear energy production (measured in terawatt-hours) also rose consistently until the 21st century, peaking in 2001 when it contributed nearly 7% to the world’s energy supply. But in the years following, it started to drop and flatline.

A chart plotting the total nuclear energy produced since 1950 and the percentage it contributes to the world's energy supply.

By 2021, nuclear energy had fallen to 4.3% of global energy production. Several nuclear accidents—Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima—contributed to turning sentiment against nuclear energy.

YearNuclear Energy
% of Total Energy
196572 TWh0.2%
196698 TWh0.2%
1967116 TWh0.2%
1968148 TWh0.3%
1969175 TWh0.3%
1970224 TWh0.4%
1971311 TWh0.5%
1972432 TWh0.7%
1973579 TWh0.9%
1974756 TWh1.1%
19751,049 TWh1.6%
19761,228 TWh1.7%
19771,528 TWh2.1%
19781,776 TWh2.3%
19791,847 TWh2.4%
19802,020 TWh2.6%
19812,386 TWh3.1%
19822,588 TWh3.4%
19832,933 TWh3.7%
19843,560 TWh4.3%
19854,225 TWh5%
19864,525 TWh5.3%
19874,922 TWh5.5%
19885,366 TWh5.8%
19895,519 TWh5.8%
19905,676 TWh5.9%
19915,948 TWh6.2%
19925,993 TWh6.2%
19936,199 TWh6.4%
19946,316 TWh6.4%
19956,590 TWh6.5%
19966,829 TWh6.6%
19976,782 TWh6.5%
19986,899 TWh6.5%
19997,162 TWh6.7%
20007,323 TWh6.6%
20017,481 TWh6.7%
20027,552 TWh6.6%
20037,351 TWh6.2%
20047,636 TWh6.2%
20057,608 TWh6%
20067,654 TWh5.8%
20077,452 TWh5.5%
20087,382 TWh5.4%
20097,233 TWh5.4%
20107,374 TWh5.2%
20117,022 TWh4.9%
20126,501 TWh4.4%
20136,513 TWh4.4%
20146,607 TWh4.4%
20156,656 TWh4.4%
20166,715 TWh4.3%
20176,735 TWh4.3%
20186,856 TWh4.2%
20197,073 TWh4.3%
20206,789 TWh4.3%
20217,031 TWh4.3%

More recently, a return to nuclear energy has gained some support as countries push for transitions to cleaner energy, since nuclear power generates no direct carbon emissions.

What’s Next for Nuclear Energy?

Nuclear remains one of the least harmful sources of energy, and some countries are pursuing advancements in nuclear tech to fight climate change.

Small, modular nuclear reactors are one of the current proposed solutions to both bring down costs and reduce construction time of nuclear power plants. The benefits include smaller capital investments and location flexibility by trading off energy generation capacity.

With countries having to deal with aging nuclear reactors and climate change at the same time, replacements need to be considered. Will they come in the form of new nuclear power and uranium mining, or alternative sources of energy?

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