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Sizing Up: The Oil Market vs Top 10 Metal Markets Combined

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crude oil's market size compared to the top 10 metal markets

The Size of the Oil Market vs Top 10 Metal Markets

While the global economy relies on many commodities, none come close to the massive scale of the oil market.

Besides being the primary energy source for transportation, oil is a key raw material for numerous other industries like plastics, fertilizers, cosmetics, and medicine. As a result, the global physical oil market is astronomical in size and has a significant economic and geopolitical influence, with a few countries dominating global oil production.

The above infographic puts crude oil’s market size into perspective by comparing it to the 10 largest metal markets combined. To calculate market sizes, we used the latest price multiplied by global production in 2022, based on data from TradingEconomics and the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Note: This analysis focuses on raw and physical materials, excluding derivative markets and alloy materials like steel.

How Big Is the Oil Market?

In 2022, the world produced an average of 80.75 million barrels of oil per day (including condensates). That puts annual crude oil production at around 29.5 billion barrels, with the market size exceeding $2 trillion at current prices.

That figure dwarfs the combined size of the 10 largest metal markets:

Commodity2022 Annual ProductionMarket Size
Crude Oil29.5 billion barrels$2.1 trillion
Iron Ore2.6 billion tonnes$283.4 billion
Gold3,100 tonnes$195.9 billion
Copper22 million tonnes$183.3 billion
Aluminum69 million tonnes$152.6 billion
Nickel3.3 million tonnes$68.8 billion
Zinc13 million tonnes$30.9 billion
Silver26,000 tonnes$19.9 billion
Molybdenum250,000 tonnes$12.9 billion
Palladium210 tonnes$9.5 billion
Lead4.5 million tonnes$9.2 billion

Based on prices as of June 7, 2023.

The combined market size of the top 10 metal markets amounts to $967 billion, less than half that of the oil market. In fact, even if we added all the remaining smaller raw metal markets, the oil market would still be far bigger.

This also reflects the massive scale of global oil consumption annually, with the resource having a ubiquitous presence in our daily lives.

The Big Picture

While the oil market towers over metal markets, it’s important to recognize that this doesn’t downplay the importance of these commodities.

Metals form a critical building block of the global economy, playing a key role in infrastructure, energy technologies, and more. Meanwhile, precious metals like gold and silver serve as important stores of value.

As the world shifts towards a more sustainable future and away from fossil fuels, it’ll be interesting to see how the markets for oil and other commodities evolve.

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Energy Shift

Visualizing the Rise of the U.S. as Top Crude Oil Producer

Over the last decade, the U.S. has surpassed Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s top producer of crude oil.

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Line chart showing how the U.S. has surpassed Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world's top producer of crude oil.

Visualizing the Rise of the U.S. as Top Crude Oil Producer

Over the last decade, the United States has established itself as the world’s top producer of crude oil, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia.

This infographic illustrates the rise of the U.S. as the biggest oil producer, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

U.S. Takes Lead in 2018

Over the last three decades, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Russia have alternated as the top crude producers, but always by small margins.

During the 1990s, Saudi Arabia dominated crude production, taking advantage of its extensive oil reserves. The petroleum sector accounts for roughly 42% of the country’s GDP, 87% of its budget revenues, and 90% of export earnings.

However, during the 2000s, Russia surpassed Saudi Arabia in production during some years, following strategic investments in expanding its oil infrastructure. The majority of Russia’s oil goes to OECD Europe (60%), with around 20% going to China.

Crude Oil Production United StatesSaudi ArabiaRussia
199211.93%13.97%12.74%
199311.50%13.68%11.35%
199410.96%13.32%10.50%
199510.60%13.17%9.96%
199610.21%12.87%9.49%
19979.84%12.73%9.29%
19989.39%12.58%9.05%
19999.06%11.99%9.33%
20008.67%12.33%9.64%
20018.65%11.89%10.45%
20028.63%11.49%11.53%
20038.05%12.92%12.10%
20047.46%12.74%12.67%
20057.00%13.21%12.82%
20066.85%13.00%12.90%
20076.84%12.38%13.29%
20086.71%12.44%12.56%
20097.32%11.28%12.98%
20107.37%11.31%13.03%
20117.55%12.81%13.02%
20128.50%13.04%12.94%
20139.76%12.86%13.10%
201411.18%12.60%12.86%
201511.67%12.77%12.66%
201610.92%13.12%13.02%
201711.53%12.68%13.05%
201813.21%12.77%12.96%
201914.90%12.15%13.20%
202014.87%12.37%12.97%
202114.59%12.06%13.10%
202214.73%13.17%12.76%

Over the 2010s, the U.S. witnessed an increase in domestic production, much of it attributable to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in the shale formations ranging from Texas to North Dakota. It became the world’s largest oil producer in 2018, outproducing Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. accounted for 14.7% of crude oil production worldwide in 2022, compared to 13.1% for Saudi Arabia and 12.7% for Russia.

Despite leading petroleum production, the U.S. still trails seven countries in remaining proven reserves underground, with 55,251 million barrels.

Venezuela has the biggest reserves with 303,221 million barrels. Saudi Arabia, with 267,192 million barrels, occupies the second spot, while Russia is seventh with 80,000 million barrels.

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Energy Shift

Visualizing All the Nuclear Waste in the World

Despite concerns about nuclear waste, high-level radioactive waste constitutes less than 0.25% of all radioactive waste ever generated.

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Graphic cubes illustrating the global volume of nuclear waste and its disposal methods.

Visualizing All the Nuclear Waste in the World

Originally posted on the Decarbonization Channel. Subscribe to the free mailing list to be the first to receive decarbonization-related visualizations, with a focus on the U.S. power sector.

Nuclear power is among the safest and cleanest sources of electricity, making it a critical part of the clean energy transition.

However, nuclear waste, an inevitable byproduct, is often misunderstood.

In collaboration with the National Public Utilities Council, this graphic shows the volume of all existing nuclear waste, categorized by its level of hazardousness and disposal requirements, based on data from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Storage and Disposal

Nuclear provides about 10% of global electricity generation.

Nuclear waste, produced as a result of this, can be divided into four different types:

  • Very low-level waste: Waste suitable for near-surface landfills, requiring lower containment and isolation.
  • Low-level waste: Waste needing robust containment for up to a few hundred years, suitable for disposal in engineered near-surface facilities.
  • Intermediate-level waste: Waste that requires a greater degree of containment and isolation than that provided by near-surface disposal.
  • High-level waste: Waste is disposed of in deep, stable geological formations, typically several hundred meters below the surface.

Despite safety concerns, high-level radioactive waste constitutes less than 0.25% of total radioactive waste reported to the IAEA.

Waste ClassDisposed (cubic meters)Stored (cubic meters)Total (cubic meters)
Very low-level waste758,802313,8821,072,684
Low-level waste1,825,558204,8582,030,416
Intermediate level waste671,097201,893872,990
High-level waste3,9605,3239,283

Stored and disposed radioactive waste reported to the IAEA under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. Data is from the last reporting year which varies by reporting country, 2019-2023.

The amount of waste produced by the nuclear power industry is small compared to other industrial activities.

While flammable liquids comprise 82% of the hazardous materials shipped annually in the U.S., radioactive waste accounts for only 0.01%.

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