How Much Fossil Fuels Are Left, & When Will We Run Out?

In the guide below, we discuss the world’s fossil fuel resources i.e. coal, oil, and natural gas.

We outline how much of each might be left, when we might run out, and other relevant information.

 

Summary – The World’s Fossil Fuel Resources

The information in the guide below is a summary of the information found in three separate guides we’ve already put together on the world’s remaining coal, gas and oil resources and reserves.

You can access those guides here:

How Much Coal Is Left In The World, & When Will We Run Out?

How Much Oil Is Left In The World, & When Will We Run Out?

How Much Natural Gas Is Left In The World, & When Will We Run Out?

 

In those guides, we outline information relating to:

– The remaining resources and reserves, and reserve trends over time

– Potentially undiscovered resources

– Unconventional resources (for oil and natural gas)

– Which countries have the largest reserves

– Total production, and production trends over time

– Which countries produce the most

– Total demand & consumption

– Whether we are running out of each resource in the short term, and what factors might impact our ability to extract and use resources in the medium to long term

– When we might run out of each resource

– What might happen if we start running out of each resource

– Recent reports on shortages for each resource

– How we might manage each resource more sustainably

– Potential substitutes for each resource

 

How Much Fossil Fuels Are Left On Earth? – Resources, & Reserves

What can be seen below is that total resources can be split into the following:

– Undiscovered resources (which can be converted into reserves once they are discovered, and then assessed as economically feasible to extract with today’s technology and processes)

– Proven reserves 

– Unconventional resources (applicable to oil and natural gas – we explain them in deeper detail n those guides)

There’s typically a lot more discovered and undiscovered resources than there is proven reserves at any one point in time.

 

Coal

– Resources

One report indicates that global resources of coal total almost 20,000 Gt (which was mostly hard coal, but also included lignite)

 

– Reserves

One report indicates that confirmed coal reserves world-wide at the end of 2019 totalled 1,077 Gt (which was mostly hard coal, but also included lignite)

Overall, world proven coal reserves have increased over the last decade from 2010 to 2020

 

Oil

– Resources

The total amount of oil resources that are yet to become proven reserves are estimated into the hundreds of billions of barrels according to some reports. This number does not include unconventional oil resources which could add to this estimate

 

– Reserves

One report indicates that the total world reserves of crude oil including lease condensate reserves, in 2020, was 1662 billions of barrels

Overall, world proven oil reserves have increased from 1990 to 2020

 

Natural Gas

– Resources

Total undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas resources are estimated into the thousands of trillions of cubic feet, and unconventional gas resources have to be added to this number too

Some estimates indicate there could be 8.3 times as much unconventional gas resources as conventional gas resources

 

– Reserves

In the year 2020, total world dry natural gas reserves were 7257 trillion cubic feet according to on report. These reserves are in addition to undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas resources, and unconventional natural gas resources

Overall, world proven natural gas reserves have increased from 1980 to 2020

 

When Will We Run Out Of Fossil Fuels? … How Many Years Worth Of Fossil Fuels Are Left?

It’s worth noting that estimates for the number of years worth of any fossil fuel left are not definitive. They can change each year as variables like proven reserves, production, and consumption/demand change.

 

Coal

There’s a range of estimates of how much coal we have left on a global scale, ranging anywhere from 30 years up to 150 years worth of coal

However, there’s also separate estimates of how many years worth of coal each individual country has left based on their current proven reserves, and their current production rate

One report indicates that the US for example might have over 300 years worth of coal left according to some reports

 

Oil

There’s a range of estimates of how much oil we have left on a global scale, ranging anywhere from 30 years up to 53 years worth of oil

However, there’s also separate estimates of how many years worth of coal each individual country has left based on their current proven reserves, and their current production rate

One report indicates that Venezuela for example might have up to 1578 years worth of oil production in reserve

 

Natural Gas

There’s a range of estimates of how much natural gas we have left on a global scale, ranging anywhere from 30 years up to 52.8 years worth of natural gas

However, there’s also separate estimates of how many years worth of natural gas each individual country has left based on their current proven reserves, and their current production rate

One report for example indicates that Russia for example might have up to 77 years worth of oil production in reserve

 

Why We Might Not Run Out Of Mined Resources Like Coal, Oil & Natural Gas Anytime Soon

In this guide, we discuss some of the main reasons we may not run out of mined resources at any point soon.

Some of the factors that can impact our ability to extract and use resources into the future can include, but aren’t limited to:

– Annual demand and consumption 

– Annual production

– Investment in production, and increasing production capacity (countries can invest in production to increase production capacity to meet demand, however, there may sometimes be limitations)

– Investment in exploration and discovering currently undiscovered resources

– Whether or not unconventional resources are used for production

– Whether proven reserves are increasing, decreasing, or staying stable over the medium to long term

– The development and introduction of new extraction processes and technology that allows previously inaccessible, or previously economically unfeasible resources to be extracted 

– Prices of resources (the higher the prices, the more resources that can be extracted at a higher extraction cost)

 

The Amount Of Resources & Reserves Left Is Different To The Supply Of Resources To An Individual Country

Something that should be mentioned is that just because the world has a certain amount of resources or reserves left, it does not ensure supply of these resources to all countries.

Net importers for example may struggle to meet demand at specific times, whereas countries with abundant domestic reserves and production may have less difficulty meeting local demand (assuming this country isn’t exporting most of their resources to other countries.)

This is just one general example though.

 

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-much-natural-gas-is-left-in-the-world-when-will-we-run-out/ 

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-much-oil-is-left-in-the-world-when-will-we-run-out/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-much-coal-is-left-in-the-world-when-will-we-run-out/

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