Frequently Asked Questions

How much oil is used to make plastic?

In the United States, plastics are made from liquid petroleum gases (LPG), natural gas liquids (NGL), and natural gas. LPG are by-products of petroleum refining, and NGL are removed from natural gas before it enters transmission pipelines.

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, 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

In addition to petroleum, natural gas is used to manufacture plastic materials and resins. In 2010, about 412 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas were used to make plastic materials and resins, equal to about 1.7% of total U.S. natural gas consumption. Of the 412 Bcf, 13 Bcf were used as feedstock, and 399 Bcf were burned as fuel.

Electricity is also used to manufacture plastics. In 2010, about 65 billion kilowatt-hours were used, equal to about 1.7% of total U.S. electricity consumption. Only about 1% of the total U.S. petroleum consumed in 2010 was used to generate electricity.

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

1Most recent year for which data is available.

Learn more:

Detailed data on manufacturing energy consumption.

Data on annual U.S. petroleum consumption.

Data on annual U.S. natural gas consumption

Data on annual U.S. electricity consumption

Last updated: March 28, 2013

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