The United States is a highly industrialized country. The industrial sector accounted for about one-third of the total U.S. energy consumption in 2016.
Industry uses many energy sources
The U.S. industrial sector uses a variety of energy sources including
- Natural gas
- Petroleum, such as distillate and residual fuel oils and hydrocarbon gas liquids
- Renewable sources, mainly biomass such as pulping liquids (called black liquor) and other residues from paper making and residues from agriculture, forestry, and lumber milling operations
- Coal and coal coke
Most industries purchase electricity from electric utilities or independent power producers. Some industrial facilities generate electricity for use at their plants using fuels that they purchase or the residues from their industrial processes. A few produce electricity with solar photovoltaic systems located on their properties. Some of them sell some of the electricity that they generate.
Industry uses fossil fuels and renewable energy sources for
- Heat in industrial processes and space heating in buildings
- Boiler fuel to generate steam or hot water for process heating and generating electricity
- Feedstocks (raw materials) to make products such as plastics and chemicals
Electricity is used for operating industrial motors and machinery, lights, computers, and office equipment and for facility heating, cooling, and ventilation equipment.
Energy use by type of industry
Every industry uses energy, but three industries account for most of the total U.S. industrial sector energy consumption. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2016, the bulk chemical industry was the largest industrial consumer of energy, followed by the refining industry and the mining industry. These three industries combined accounted for about 55% of total U.S. industrial sector energy consumption.
Energy sources used as feedstocks
Some manufacturers use energy sources as feedstocks—raw materials—in their manufacturing processes. (Manufacturers are a subset of the industrial sector, which includes manufacturing, agriculture, construction, forestry, and mining.) For example, hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL) are feedstocks for making plastics and chemicals. According to the 2014 Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey (MECS), feedstocks accounted for about 5.3 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), or about 28%, of total first use of energy by U.S. manufacturers in 2014.1
Feedstock use by manufacturers by type of feedstock, amount (in trillion Btu (TBtu)), and share of total manufacturing feedstock use in 2014:
- Hydrocarbon gas liquids—2,363 TBtu—45%
- Natural gas—554 TBtu—10%
- Coal—484 TBtu—9%
- Coke and breeze—81 TBtu—2%
- Other—1,805 TBtu—34%
Other includes petroleum products such as residual and distillate fuel oils, asphalt, lubricants, waxes, and petrochemicals.
1 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey 2014, Tables 1.2 and 2.2, October 2017