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Use of energy explained Energy use in industry

The United States is a highly industrialized country. In 2018, the industrial sector accounted for about 32% of total U.S. energy consumption.1

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 (HGL)
  • Electricity
  • Renewable sources, mainly biomass such as pulping liquids (called black liquor) and other residues from papermaking and residues from agriculture, forestry, and lumber milling
  • Coal and coal coke

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Most industries purchase electricity from electric utilities or independent power producers. Some industrial facilities also generate electricity for use at their plants using fuels that they purchase or using residues from their industrial processes. For example, paper mills may burn purchased natural gas and black liquor produced in their mills for process heat and to generate electricity. Some manufacturers produce electricity with solar photovoltaic systems located on their properties. Some industrial facilities 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

The industrial sector uses electricity for operating industrial motors and machinery, lights, computers and office equipment, and equipment for facility heating, cooling, and ventilation.

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 2018, the bulk chemical industry (the largest industrial consumer of energy), the refining industry, and the mining industry combined accounted for about 58% of total U.S. industrial sector energy consumption.

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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, 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 2014.2

  • The following are types of feedstocks used by manufacturers, amounts used in trillion Btu (TBtu), and percent shares of total manufacturing feedstock used in 2014:
  • HGL2,363 TBtu45%
  • natural gas554 TBtu10%
  • coal484 TBtu9%
  • coke and breeze81 TBtu2%
  • other1,805 TBtu34%

Other includes petroleum products such as residual and distillate fuel oils, asphalt, lubricants, waxes, and petrochemicals.

1 Total U.S. energy consumption includes primary energy consumption and net electricity imports. Total energy consumption by the sector includes primary energy consumption, purchased electricity, and electrical system energy losses associated with purchased electricity. End-use energy consumption by the sector excludes electrical system energy losses.

2 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey 2014, Tables 1.2 and 2.2, October 2017

Last updated: May 9, 2019