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C. Alan Joyce

Computing Global Energy Production and Consumption

June 30, 2010 —
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In any news report about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a lot of statistics get thrown around—mainly about the rate at which oil has been spewing out of a pipe on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. Recent estimates put the flow up to 60,000 barrels per day, but it’s hard for most of us to comprehend exactly what that number means. Wolfram|Alpha has always been able to provide some useful comparisons for any quantity you care to input, and can easily tell you that 60,000 barrels of oil is roughly equivalent to 3.8 times the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

With the recent addition of data on production and consumption of energy resources in every country, Wolfram|Alpha can also give you a more precise socioeconomic context for numbers like this. Try “60000 barrels per day / US crude oil production”, for example, and you’ll learn that the daily output of the leak is a little less than 1.2% of total crude oil production per day for the United States.

60000 barrels of oil divided by the United States' daily oil production

You can also get a better sense of global production or consumption of petroleum products, as well as information on coal and natural gas.

Because each of these energy resources is measured in different units, it can be difficult to understand exactly how they compare to one another—so Wolfram|Alpha can also compute the energy equivalents of each resource, measured in quadrillions of BTUs. For example, you can compare the United States consumption of energy from coal, natural gas, and petroleum on a single scale to better visualize the relative importance of each resource.

Comparing the United States consumption of energy from coal, natural gas, and petroleum

Wolfram|Alpha can also compute answers to questions about electricity generation from various sources—from total production in a single country to analyses of production in a larger region to global statistics about specific sources of electricity.

We’re working to add more data on this timely topic, including reserves, imports, exports, and price information. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions for future development of energy-related data in Wolfram|Alpha.


Any plans on adding nuclear energy in the comparison of co2 emissions per kw?
In any case always congratulation for the great job you’re doing

Posted by Andrea Volpini July 1, 2010 at 10:40 am

Other comparative data could include the water flow of geysers or other measures of (oceanic?) water flows. According to the wikipedia Old Faithful discharges between 3700 and 8400 gallons of water per eruption, which lasts between 1.5 and 5 minutes. That means between 1680 and 2500 gallons are released per minute. This “oil spill” or “oil leak”, as we have come to call it, means 1323 gallons per minute, if 60,000 barrels per day is correct. Unless we want to call venerable Old Faithful a “water leak” or a “water spill”, how come we are talking about an “oil leak” or “oil spill” if the oil is released at these gushing proportions competing with geysers?

Posted by Mooniac July 1, 2010 at 8:10 pm

What about solar energy or wind energy? Is that data available, too?

Posted by leifus July 5, 2010 at 9:27 am

Interesting points. I agree.

Posted by jhonoo July 7, 2010 at 2:53 pm


Are your sources listed?

Posted by Walter Andreeff July 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm

any chance to see something about solar energy?
thank you for this

Posted by andrea izzo August 10, 2011 at 1:14 pm