CoalNatural GasPetroleum

Fossil Fuel Reserves

Timelines laid out in BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy estimate the years that coal, natural gas, and crude oil will be exhausted via current extraction and production rates. Coal reserves will “run out” in 2169, oil in 2066 and natural gas will be exhausted two years later in 2068. The answer to how much time civilization has left to use non-renewable resources differs depending on who you ask. Studies done by BP base predictions on how much drillable oil is confirmed to be underground, which some may argue isn’t an accurate representation of availability as countries determine reserve amounts differently (NASDAQ, 2017). Though the Energy Information Administration (EIA) measures reserves similarly, it also indicates the successful exploration in finding new/more energy reserves.

Companies that harvest fossil fuels measure reserves based on what’s available right now, or in other terms available inventory, as well as in recoverable resources, which are those that remain untouched but are still detectable.


Below is a chart provided by the EIA detailing oil reserves


Total global coal reserves, estimated in the 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy, is at 1,139 billion metric tons (BP, 2019). The EIA measures resource reserves in the United States by mining types. In 2018, the agency measured the demonstrated reserve base (or coal that could be mined at any time), the estimated recoverable reserves (mines accessible after considering various restraints such as technology), and recoverable reserves at producing mines.

Demonstrated reserve base is left at about 475 billion short tons in the United States. Of that number, 148 billion short tons are at the surface, leaving more than two-thirds of the remaining coal resource underground. Estimated recoverable resource reserves — or coal in mines only available based on accessibility and current technology — is at around 253 billion short tons. More than half of this type of reserve is underground at 146 billion short tons; 107 billion short tons are at surface level. Recoverable reserves at producing mines account for those that produce more than 25,000 short tons of coal per year. About 11 billion short tons are at the surface and the remaining 5 billion short tons lay underground.

The United States accounts for 22 percent of coal reserves globally, with Russia in a close second at 16 percent. These two countries alongside Australia (14 percent), China (13 percent) and India (9 percent) make up three-quarters of the world’s recoverable coal reserves.


Global crude oil reserves total about 1,707 billion barrels (BP, 2019). The BP study reported that North America produced a steady increase in the thousand million (billion) barrels of oil reserves at each ten-year mark. From 2008 to 2018, oil proved reserves increased from 216.6 billion barrels. This number is nearly double from the 1998 report, which estimated 100 billion barrels of oil were on-hand in North America. In the United States specifically, the first reported increase (from 1998-2008) was marginal, however, from 2008 to the end of 2017 oil reserves doubled from 28.4 billion barrels to 61.2 billion barrels.

Natural gas

Though BP’s review found that global natural gas reserves total 187 trillion cubic meters, recoverable domestic natural gas has improved each year since 2000. In 2017, nearly every state (excluding 15) had at least 5,000 billion cubic feet of proved gas reserves — the U.S. continually reports increased proved natural gas reserves.

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In 2017, U.S. on-/offshore proved natural gas reserved totaled 464.29 trillion cubic feet. From 1985 to 2017 reserves onshore steadily increased, spiking in 2017. However, offshore/Alaskan reserves dwindled from 37.95/34.22 trillion cubic feet to 6.47/ 6.57 trillion cubic feet in 2017.

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Though there have been new discoveries of fossil fuels around the world, one thing is certain: The end of fossil fuels is unavoidable, as they are non-renewable. The question, though, is when will consumption beat out supply?


BP concluded that energy consumption up to the end of 2018 had increased by 2.9 percent, which is the most rapid increase since 2010. The 10-year average is 1.5 percent per year.  Natural gas contributed to 40 percent of this increase. Renewable energy was the second-largest power source to see growth within the past year.

(2011). “How Much Natural Gas Is There, Really?” National Geographic
Environmental Information Administration. “Energy Explained”
BP (2019). “2018 Statistical Review of World Energy”
NASDAQ (2017). “How Much Oil is Left on Earth?”

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