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Use of energy explained Energy use in industry

The United States is a highly industrialized country. In 2020, the industrial sector accounted for 36% of total U.S. end-use energy consumption and 33% 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 (HGLs)
  • 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. In addition, some industrial facilities also generate electricity for their own use using fuels that they purchase and/or the residues from their industrial processes. For example, many paper mills have combined heat and power plants that may burn purchased natural gas or coal 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

Within the industrial sector, manufacturing accounts for the largest share of annual industrial energy consumption, generally followed by mining, construction, and agriculture. Mining includes extraction of minerals, nonmineral products such as stone and gravel, coal, oil, and natural gas. Agriculture includes farming, fishing, and forestry. Manufacturing is the physical, mechanical, or chemical transformation of materials or substances into new products. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) makes projections for energy consumption by these four major industrial activities in the Annual Energy Outlook, which include the types and amounts of energy use by type of industry and manufacturers.

  • Percentage shares of industrial energy consumption by the four major types of industries in the Annual Energy Outlook Reference case for 2020
  • manufacturing77%
  • mining12%
  • construction7%
  • agriculture5%

The manufacturing industry categories in the AEO projections are generally consistent with the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) used in the Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey (MECS). EIA conducts the MECS every four years to collect detailed information on energy use and expenditures and other data by U.S. manufacturing establishments. According to MECS 2018, the combined energy use by six energy-intensive manufacturing subsectors—chemicals, petroleum and coal products, paper, primary metals, food, and nonmetallic minerals products—equaled 16.9 quadrillion Btu, or 87% of total manufacturing energy consumption. The three largest energy consuming manufacturing subsectors—chemicals, petroleum and coal products, and paper—combined consumed nearly 70% of total manufacturing energy use in 2018.

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Manufacturing energy consumption includes fuel and nonfuel sources

Manufacturers consume two general types of energy sources—fuel and nonfuel. Fuel consumption is the use of combustible energy sources to produce heat and/or to generate electricity (which, by manufacturers, is mostly for their own use), and the use of electricity to operate equipment and associated manufacturing facilities. Nonfuel sources are feedstocks (raw materials) that are used to make products. According to MECS 2018, fuel use accounted for about 68% and nonfuel sources/feedstocks accounted for about 32% of total first use of energy by U.S. manufacturers in 2018.2

Manufacturing energy consumption by subsector and type of energy in 2018 (trillion British thermal units)
Subsector Fuel Nonfuel Total
Chemicals  2,815  4,326  7,141
Petroleum and coal products  3,342     903  4,245
Paper  2,488         3  2,491
Primary metals  1,734     307  2,041
Food  1,511  1,511
Nonmetalic minerals  1,161  1,161
All others     247     599     846
Total 13,298   6,138 19,436

HGLs (excluding natural gasoline) accounted for 46% of total U.S. manufacturing feedstock use in 2018. HGLs are feedstocks for making plastics and chemicals. Natural gas, the next largest manufacturing nonfuel energy source, is a major feedstock for making fertilizer.

  • Manufacturing feedstock use by type, amounts in trillion Btu (TBtu), and percentage shares of total feedstock use in 2018
  • HGLs2,834 TBtu46%
  • natural gas958 TBtu16%
  • coal425 TBtu7%
  • other1,920 TBtu31%

Coal accounted for 7% of the total manufacturing energy feedstock use in 2018, of which about 60% was used by primary metals manufacturers (mostly for making iron and steel), and the remainder was used by petroleum and coal products manufacturers. Other feedstocks included coke and breeze and petroleum products—residual and distillate fuel oils, asphalt/bitumen, lubricants, waxes, and petrochemicals.

Among manufacturers, the chemicals, petroleum and coal products, and primary metals subsectors are the main consumers of nonfuel energy/feedstocks. In 2018, chemical manufacturers accounted for about 70% of total nonfuel energy feedstocks use by manufacturing and for 22% of total U.S. manufacturing sector fuel and nonfuel energy/feedstock use.



1 End-use energy consumption includes primary energy consumption by the sector and retail electricity sales to (or purchases by) the sector. Total energy consumption includes primary energy consumption, retail electricity sales/purchases, and electrical system energy losses associated with the retail electricity sales/purchases.

2 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey 2018, Tables 1.2, 2.2, and 3.2, February 2021

Last updated: August 2, 2021