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Craft Oil: The Lesser Known Side of America’s Energy Industry

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Go back a decade, and America’s energy industry was quite the hot button issue.

Oil prices were soaring past $100/bbl, the country was still reliant on OPEC for imports, and a lack of energy independence was becoming a costly issue. Meanwhile, the United States was being outclassed on the energy production front by both Saudi Arabia and Russia.

However, in the short span of eight years – and thanks to the use of technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing – the United States quickly went from having a questionable energy future to being in a clear position of strength. Today, even with lower prices, U.S. field production of crude is at a 43-year high.

America’s Independent Oil Producers

Since 2016, the U.S. has produced close to the equivalent of 30 million bpd in oil and natural gas, making the United States a champion of global energy production.

Today’s infographic from Jericho Oil focuses on a key part of the turnaround in the U.S. energy sector that often gets overshadowed by Big Oil players like ExxonMobil or Royal Dutch Shell. It covers the role of “Craft Oil” in the industry, an umbrella that includes many small, independent, and focused companies across America that produce oil and gas on a domestic basis.

The thousands of companies in this group, many which are community-driven or family-owned, actually drill 95% of the country’s oil wells to yield 54% of onshore oil and 85% of onshore gas production.

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Energy Metals

The World’s Safest Source of Energy Will Surprise You

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When it comes to conversations on energy, it’s hard to leave your feelings at the door.

It’s arguable that energy is the single most important driver of human progress – it’s a multi-trillion dollar industry that powers our daily lives, technological advancements, and even the economic development of entire countries. At the same time, our choices around energy can have significant consequences. How we decide to generate energy can decimate the environment, fuel political conflicts, and even cause human deaths as unwelcome side effects.

The outcomes from our choices around energy are so vivid, that we’ve developed strong and polarized associations with the subject at hand.

The Empirical Perspective

Today’s visualization on the safest sources of energy comes to us from Cambridge House, the company hosting the International Mining Investment Conference 2018 on May 15-16 in Vancouver, BC, and it uses an empirical approach to compare different energy sources with one another.

Based on the data, this comparison provides a perspective that will be surprising to many viewers. Despite its perceived dangers, nuclear is actually the safest type of energy.

Energy SourceDeaths per 1,000 TWh% of Global Primary Energy Supply (2015)
Coal100,00028.1%
Oil36,00031.7%
Natural Gas4,00021.6%
Hydro1,4002.5%
Rooftop Solar440<1%
Wind150<1%
Nuclear904.9%

That’s right – even when including seemingly catastrophic incidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima in the calculations, the math says that the amount of energy generated by nuclear is so vast that it more than outweighs these incidents over the long-term.

The reality is that nuclear energy is much more comparable to renewables like solar or wind, in terms of safety. More importantly, it’s on the polar opposite of the spectrum from coal, which manages to kill 4,400 people daily in China alone.

The Nuclear Option

Interestingly, multiple studies have come to this exact same conclusion, including the ones used in an analysis by economist Max Roser’s project called Our World in Data.

Even though the conclusion on nuclear is pretty cut and dry, it’s still hard to absorb. After all, the relative safety of nuclear ends up being extremely counter-intuitive to our human brains, which are seemingly wired to put more weight on big, memorable events (i.e. Chernobyl) rather than slow, consistent deaths that occur over time with other energy sources.

Today, nuclear provides about 11% of the world’s electricity from about 450 power reactors, generating about 2,500 TWh of electricity each year.

And while there are still questions that remain – specifically revolving around how to store certain types of nuclear waste – the above data explains why the majority of scientists classify nuclear as a sustainable and safe energy source, along with other renewables.

What is VC Metals? You may have noticed that this site is different from our main one. That’s because this is the “soft launch” of a new channel within Visual Capitalist that focuses on investing in commodities, metals, and energy. Expect more soon!

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Energy Metals

What Energy Sources Power the World?

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There are many types of maps out there, but one of the most telling ones is a simple satellite image of the Earth at night.

On these powerful images, the darkness is a blank canvas for the bright city lights that represent the vast extent of human geography. The bright spots help us understand the distribution of population, as well as what areas of the world are generally wealthier and more urban. Meanwhile, the big dark spots – such as over the wilderness in northern Canada, the Amazon basin, or in Niger – show areas that are not densely populated or more rural.

Here’s one image based on this principle. It comes from NASA, and is a composite made from 400 separate satellite images from 2012:

Satellite composite image of Earth

How Are These Lights Powered?

But what if we could differentiate, by “shutting off” lights that are powered by certain electricity sources?

Today’s visualizations come from a nifty interactive website put together by GoCompare.com, and they breakdown the world’s electricity by source: fossil fuels, renewables, or nuclear fission.

Fossil Fuels

To start, here are the places on Earth that are powered by fossil fuels.

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Fossil Fuels only

Globally, fossil fuels represent about two-thirds of electricity usage. It’s also worth noting that fossil fuels also make up the majority of non-electrical sources needed for things like automobiles, aircraft, and ships, which are not shown on the map.

For further interest, we have previously shown the evolution over time of total U.S. energy usage, as well as a detailed breakdown of current U.S. usage – both which are still dominated by fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal.

Nuclear Only

Here are the places on Earth powered by nuclear fission.

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Nuclear only

Nuclear makes up about 10% of all global electricity usage – and France is the world’s most reliant country, getting about 74% of its power mix from nuclear. Also noteworthy is Japan, which has switched its major electrical source from nuclear to fossil fuels since the Fukushima incident in 2011.

Nuclear is a major source of energy in the rest of Europe as well.

Belgium (51%), Sweden (43%), Hungary (51%), Slovakia (55%), Czech Republic (35%), Slovenia (33%), Ukraine (43%), and Finland (33%) all draw significant amounts of their electricity from nuclear reactors.

Renewables

Last, but not least, are renewables.

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Renewables only

It’s important to remember here that hydroelectricity is the largest renewable energy source by far, and that countries like Canada and Brazil rely on hydro extensively.

Outside of hydro, Italy is a leader in solar generation (6% of all electricity). Meanwhile, just eight countries host over 80% of all installed wind power: France, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, India, Germany, USA, and China.

Finally, it’s worth noting that there are four smaller countries that get all, or nearly all, of their electricity from renewable sources. Those include Iceland (72% hydro, 28% geothermal), Albania (100% hydro), Paraguay (100% hydro), and Norway (97% hydro, 2% fossil fuels, and 1% other).

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