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Korea, North's Key Energy Statistics world rank
Total Primary Energy Production
2016
0.914
Quadrillion Btu
54
Total Primary Energy Consumption
2016
0.383
Quadrillion Btu
79
Primary Coal Exports
2016
24,826
Thousand Short Tons
10
Primary Coal Production
2016
34,238
Thousand Short Tons
21
Coal Recoverable Reserves
2017
661
Million Short Tons
36
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Map of Korea, North
Map of Korea, North

Analysis - Energy Sector Highlights Last updated: June 2018

  • North Korea was once the industrial center of the Korean peninsula. Following the dissolution of the former Soviet Union in 1992, North Korea lost its major trading partner. North Korea’s economy was unable to adapt, and its economy soon deteriorated. Without subsidized oil from the Soviet Union, North Korea has faced challenges in meeting its energy demand and has struggled with energy shortages for several decades. North Korea relies on coal, hydropower, and petroleum products for most of its energy needs, but renewable sources such as biomass, waste, and solar panels also supply energy in the residential sector.
  • The United Nations (UN) has imposed various economic sanctions on North Korea since 2006 because of the country’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. These sanctions restrict North Korea’s access to certain types of energy, international banking, trade, and travel. They also freeze the funds of certain North Korean assets. Individual nations—including South Korea, the United States, China, the European Union, Canada, and Japan—also have imposed economic sanctions on North Korea.
  • North Korea has undertaken some limited crude oil exploration, but it has no proved reserves of petroleum and other liquids. During North Korea’s industrial peak in the 1970s and 1980s, it imported oil from China and the Soviet Union at below-market prices. After the Cold War, these deals ended, and North Korea’s oil consumption dropped from 76,000 barrels per day (b/d) in 1991 to lower than 15,000 b/d in 2017. Consumption data for 2017 are based on reported trade information. Actual consumption could be higher given that trade volumes could be underreported, according to published articles by Stratfor and NK Pro.
  • North Korea’s launch of several ballistic missiles and its nuclear testing in 2017 has prompted tighter international sanctions on the country’s commodity trade. Following a unanimous vote, the United Nations Security Council imposed new limits on North Korean imports of petroleum products on December 22, 2017. Starting in January 2018, the UN prohibited most refined petroleum exports to North Korea by capping them at 500,000 barrels per year, and crude oil imports were limited to the current level of 4 million barrels per year (about 11,000 b/d).
  • China supplies most of North Korea’s crude oil imports. Although China’s customs records have not reported any amounts in the past few years, some reports estimate that North Korea imports between 10,000 b/d and 11,000 b/d of crude oil from China, all of which is sent to the country’s only operating refinery, the Ponghwa refinery, located close to its border with China.

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Data