Global Fluids and Volumes

Industries that work with fluids flow through common channels, use common tools and grow using recurring strategies.  Shifting between industries requires changing the metric – such as tablespoons, milliliters or acre feet – but once interpreted, the new fluid industry will require the same need for accuracy, pumps, computational fluid dynamics (“CFD”), gravity, flow rates, filters, data modeling, cleanliness , and a host of other issues familiar to the experienced practitioner.  There are many ways to measure the size of a fluid industry – and volume of fluid produced globally provides a good estimate of the importance of the fluid. [Source information is shared via Google Sheets.]

This is an attempt to standardize those measures to get a comparable volume for the amount of fluid produced by an industry globally in a year.  There are places where I use the total global static volume – as opposed to annual production – these are indicated.  Common sizing the metrics allows comparison of the volume of fluid that an industry deals with over a year.

My focus is on production – not production capacity (often a guess), but the actual value of what was produced in a year, and not what was consumed.  The focus too is on the flow rate in a given year (similar to an income statement or statement of cash flows) and not a static ‘total’ volume (similar to a balance sheet).  Assume all measurements are annual actual production unless stated otherwise.


Fluid #1: Oil and Fuel

34 billion barrels of oil are produced per year, resulting in 81 million barrels per day.  [Source 1: “World Crude Index Production by Year”] ~43% is converted into gasoline. [Source 3: US Energy Industry Association]

Fluid #2: Water, Wastewater and Desalination

Tying back into oil production, between 5 and 10 barrels of ‘Produced Water’ are created for every barrel of oil.

Produced water represents just a small fraction of the total volume of water on the Earth – 1.4 billion km^3 = 8,717,677,727,220,000,000 barrels.  This is a stock (balance sheet) number from the US Geological Society, sourced itself from Shiklomanov[1].  from This type of metric is often measured in km^3, the largest of the common volume metrics used for fluids.

Only a fraction of Earth’s water is fresh – 34.7 million km^3 is frozen, 10.1 million km^3 is potable and liquid.  Creating fresh water is a major endeavor – 34.7 km^3 (one millionth!) are produced each year, along with 54 km^3 of brackish ‘waste’ water. [Source 14: The State of Desalination and Brine Production, A Global Outlook]

Fluid #3: Beverages

Dairy leads the way by reported volume. Tracked and reported in tons, milk is slightly denser than water. 3.7 billion barrels are consumed per year.

Bottled water gets attention in many ways. It can easily be distributed for disaster relief. There are concerns that municipalities sell water too cheaply to bottlers. No one wants to deal with packaging waste issues. Trade associations state clear guidance – 2.3 billion barrels are consumed per year, but this is a growing industry.

Beer and wine are also well tracked because of trade and tariff concerns. Wine production has been steady with slight annual fluctuations – 160 million barrels are produced, nearly 1/10 of the 1.2 billion barrels of beer produced annually.

Bourbon – being regionally defined like champagne – is an easier liquor to track. 1.7 million barrels were produced according to the industry trade association, and interestingly there is currently a standing reserve of 7.5 million barrels. [Source 29]

Coffee and tea are attractive areas to explore – but would require a lot of extrapolation because of yield loss from the agricultural materials and variability in how they are consumed.  These are saved for later analysis.

Fluid #4: Industrial Fluids

Fluids are often categorized into several buckets – and the industrial market can be tough to measure.  Fluids can mean process water use in an industry, but it could also mean solvents, acids or something else.

Semiconductor process water is approximately 1.4 billion barrels per year.  This is based on a sustainability report by Intel, and a follow up assumption on what % of the market that Intel represents.

Acetic acid is used globally for many purposes – it is more than just vinegar.  33 million barrels were produced in 2019 based on the size of the market in dollars and an evaluation of the cost per barrel of glacial acetic acid.

Fluid #5: Biopharm and Medical

Blood supply.

The 7.7 billion people on Earth have ~5 liters each of blood – resulting in a total supply of 242 million barrels, which is shared 0.525 liters at a time as donations with a volume totaling <0.2% of that total at 380,000 barrels. [Source 25 – World Health Organization]


Protein therapies harvested with the power of cells stop cancer, cure auto immune disorders and drive the growth of the biopharma industry. Harnessing the power of cells to produce protein therapies has driven global growth and represents the overwhelming portion of drugs working their way through the US Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA”) approval process.  [Source 27 – BioProcess International]  While economically powerful, the 16.5 million liters of biopharm capacity is estimated to turn over four times annually – leading to 66 million liters of process water fluid production.


Dialysis is well known in the public as a way to heal patients through cleansing of liquids – its prominence demands attention.  Unfortunately, it requires a great deal of extrapolation.  WHO publishes a clear number for annual recipients of dialysis treatment – 2,620,000 people in 2010 – with a forecast to double by 2030. Beyond that things require assumptions and extrapolations.  If 4 treatments occur per week, if the average person is 62 kg, and if this ‘Home Dialysis Calculator‘ is correct with a ‘safe’ range of 10 ml / hour / kg, then there is capacity to treat a little over 1 billion liters per year.


I’d like to use this document.

Please do so.  You must refer to the source material – the original authors and reports I’ve identified.  If possible, please include a reference to this work.

But, you’re wrong!

That’s likely to happen.  I’ve worked in these space – but I’ve probably missed something. If you can point to publicly available information that corrects my notes, please do so.  I’m happy to talk confidentially about other numbers – but I cannot publish confidential information.

What about this Liquid / Fluid?

There are a lot of things I’ve missed.  Dyes, inks and acids are high on my list – as well as total capacity of process fluids in industrial reactors.  Please send them to me by suggesting ideas in the comments below.

Future Ideas

  • Common needs per market.
  • Common strategies.
  • Markets by dollar.
    • Volume / dollar per market.
  • Locations and units.
  • Fuel tanks by size.
  • Regional analysis.
  • River drainage.



[1]  Source: Igor Shiklomanov’s chapter “World fresh water resources” in Peter H. Gleick (editor), 1993, Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Fresh Water Resources (Oxford University Press, New York).


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