The industrial sector uses 55% of energy delivered worldwide — more energy than any other sector in the world, according to the International Energy Agency. Within the industrial sector, the basic metal industry is one of the largest consumers of energy, accounting for 12% of energy use in the sector.
The basic metals industry includes the production of iron, steel, aluminum and other intermediate metal goods. Some of the top products of the industry include steel girders, aluminum sheet and copper wire.
Large amounts of energy are required to heat ovens for melting and manipulating raw ores and metal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). In some parts of the industry, the type of fuel used is driven by chemical factors, such as the use of coking, or metallurgical, coal used in iron smelting. Also, metal goods are important to the energy system as the metals industry produces equipment, pipelines, wires and structural materials that are used in mining, refining and electricity industries to produce and transport energy.
The main input to the basic metals industry is energy, and the industry’s energy intensity, or the energy consumed per unit of output, is high compared to other industries. Russia was the most energy-intensive producer of all basic metal goods in 2015, with an average energy intensity of 68,000 British thermal units (Btu) per dollar, followed by Australia and New Zealand with an average intensity of 17,000 Btu per dollar, according to the EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2018.
Russia’s basic metals industry primarily produced iron and steel in 2015, while the industry in Australia and New Zealand manufactured more aluminum. These countries processed high levels of ores to produce iron, steel and aluminum in part because the natural resources are produced there. By comparison, the energy intensity of the basic metals industry in the United States is 8,000 Btu per dollar because the industry uses more diverse metals and processing stages, such as recycling or producing intermediate parts.
U.S. basic metals are exported throughout the world, and more than half of the exports go to Canada, Mexico, India and China. U.S. exports of basic metals in 2014 were $31 billion, or 2% of total exports, and lower than the 2011 peak of $37 billion, according to the World Input-Output Database.