Frequently Asked Questions

How much oil is used to make plastic?

In the United States, plastics are not made from crude oil. They are manufactured from petroleum products, which include liquid petroleum gases (LPG) and natural gas liquids (NGL), and natural gas.  LPG are by-products of petroleum refining and natural gas processing, and NGL are removed from natural gas before it enters transmission pipelines. These fuels are used as feedstocks to make the plastic and as fuels in the manufacturing process.

In 20101, about 191 million barrels of LPG and NGL were used in the United States to make plastic products in the plastic materials and resins industry, which was equal to about 2.7% of total U.S. petroleum consumption. Of those 191 million barrels, 190 million barrels were used as feedstock and 1 million barrels were consumed as fuel to manufacture these products.

In addition to LPG and NGL, about 412 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas were used to make plastic materials and resins in 2010. This was equal to about 1.7% of total U.S. natural gas consumption. Of the 412 Bcf of natural gas,13 Bcf were used as feedstock, and 399 Bcf were consumed as fuel to manufacture these products.

In addition to petroleum products and natural gas, about 65 billion kilowatthours of electricity were used to manufacture plastics in 2010, equal to about 1.7% of total U.S. electricity consumption.

EIA does not have data on the quantity of plastic materials and resins produced in the United States or on the origin of all the plastic products used in the United States. EIA does not have similar data for other countries.

1 The most recent year for which data are available.

Learn more:

Detailed manufacturing energy consumption data

Annual U.S. petroleum product consumption data

Annual U.S. natural gas consumption data

Annual U.S. electricity consumption data

Last updated: June 18, 2014

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