In 2013 coal reserves corresponded to an equivalent 623 billion tons of oil equivalent, or 160 years of consumption at the actual pace. This is three times more than conventional “proven” reserves of oil. These reserves are well distributed across the world, except maybe for South America, which possesses only 2% of the world’s reserves. North America holds the top position with 28% of the world’s reserves, with Russia second with 21%. Europe has 13% of the world’s reserves, with Germany accounting for more than half. About 13% of the world’s reserves are in China (Fig. 3.22).
North America reserves correspond to 300 years of production at the current pace. Australia, a large producer, can continue producing at this pace for another 200 years. Russia and Eurasia as a whole have considerable resources which they do not capitalize on as they mainly use natural gas.
Finally, China is by far the top coal producer and consumer in the world. Only a couple of decades of coal production remain domestically, however, after which China faces a major energy mix disruption. When coal reserves are depleted, the country will have to rely on other sources of energy or will have to import coal in the vast quantities it consumes (Fig. 3.23).
Fig. 3.22 Coal reserves (BP 2014)
Fig.3 .23 Coal reserves in years of production (BP 2014)