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April 19, 2021

Six subsectors account for nearly 90% of manufacturing energy consumption

manufacturing energy consumption by subsector
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey (MECS)
Note: To adjust for double counting, 1.6 quadrillion British thermal units are netted out of fuel consumption, as explained in MECS Table 1.2.

In 2018, the U.S. manufacturing sector consumed 19.4 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy, according to EIA’s latest Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey (MECS). In 2018, six energy-intensive subsectors—chemicals, petroleum and coal products, paper, primary metals, food, and nonmetallic mineral products—consumed 16.9 quadrillion Btu, or 87% of the total energy consumed in the manufacturing sector.

MECS is a mandatory survey we conduct once every four years that collects information on energy consumption by type and expenditure from a sample of establishments from 21 subsectors within U.S. manufacturing. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) established these subsector definitions and categorizes manufacturing establishments according to the types of production processes they primarily use.

Manufacturers consume energy both as fuel and nonfuel. Fuel consumption accounts for about two-thirds of the energy consumed in manufacturing and totaled 14.9 quadrillion Btu in both 2014 and 2018, the last two years we published MECS data. Nonfuel consumption—often referred to as feedstock—is the use of energy as a raw material input. Nonfuel consumption in the manufacturing sector surpassed 32% of total manufacturing energy consumption in 2018, an increase from 28% in 2014. This increase was a result of the availability and price decrease of U.S. natural gas and hydrocarbon gas liquids, particularly ethane, which led to an increase in basic chemical production capacity.

Three subsectors—petroleum and coal products, chemicals, and primary metals—are the largest manufacturing nonfuel consumers of energy. The chemicals subsector’s nonfuel consumption of hydrocarbon gas liquids, naphtha, and natural gas accounted for 22% of all the energy used in the U.S. manufacturing sector in 2018. Nonfuel consumption in the other two subsectors consisted mostly of metallurgic coal for iron and steel making and bitumen for asphalt production.

manufacturing sector output, fuel consumption, energy intensity
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey; Bureau of Economic Analysis, Industry Economic Account Data: GDP by Industry

Manufacturing has become more fuel efficient in the United States since 1998: between 1998 and 2018, manufacturing gross output grew by 12%, while its fuel consumption decreased by 16%. Manufacturing fuel intensity—measured as fuel consumption divided by gross output—decreased by 25%. This decrease in fuel intensity suggests technological advancement and deployment of new efficient equipment, as well as a potential shift in what is being manufactured, in the evolving U.S. manufacturing sector.

Principal contributors: Tom Lorenz, Faouzi Aloulou