In the world’s deepest gold mine, workers will venture 2.5 miles (4 km) below the Earth’s surface to extract from a 30-inch (0.8m) wide vein of gold-rich ore.
While these depths are impressive, mining is limited by the frailty of the human body. Going much deeper would be incredibly dangerous, as limitations such as heat, humidity, logistics, and potential seismic activity all become more intense.
Luckily, the oil industry does not have such human obstacles, and drilling deep into the Earth’s crust is instead limited by a different set of circumstances – how deep can the machinery and technology go before the unfathomable heat and pressure renders it inoperable?
The World’s Deepest Oil Well
Today’s infographic comes to us from Fuel Fighter, and it helps to visualize the mind-boggling depths of the world’s deepest oil well, which is located in a remote corner of eastern Russia.
The world’s deepest oil well, known as Z-44 Chayvo, goes over 40,000 ft (12 km) into the ground – equal to 15 Burj Khalifas (the tallest skyscraper) stacked on top of each other. That’s also equal to 2x the record height for air balloon flight.
Perhaps more importantly to the operator, Exxon Neftegas Ltd., the wells on this shelf are expected to produce a total of 2.3 billion barrels of oil.
That’s Some Serious Depth
Before the Z-44 Chayvo Well and other holes like it were drilled on the eastern side of Russia, the famous Kola Superdeep Borehole held the record for drill depth.
Located in western Russia, this time just 10 km from the border with Norway, the Kola Superdeep Borehole was rumored to have been discontinued in 1992 because it actually reached “hell” itself. At its most extreme depth, the drill had pierced a super-hot cavity, and scientists thought they heard the screams of “damned souls”.
All folklore aside, the Kola Superdeep Borehole is super interesting in its own right. It revealed many important things about our planet, and it still holds the record today for depth below the surface.
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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