Fuel Industry

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fuel Industry


a combination of branches of industry concerned with the extraction and processing of various fuels, including the petroleum production, petroleum refining, natural gas, coal, peat, and oil shale industries. The fuel industry is one of the most important branches of heavy industry. The importance of fuel is increasing with technological progress; mechanization, automation, electrification, and the introduction of district heating systems in industry are closely linked to this progress, and they lead to a rapid rise in the consumption of energy in the national economy. Combustible matter, especially petroleum and natural gas, are also used as raw materials in the chemical industry.

In prerevolutionary Russia, the total extraction of fuel (in figures converted to a standard fuel) in 1913 was 48.2 million tons, of which wood constituted more than 20 percent.

In the USSR, as a result of the successful fulfillment of the first five-year plans (1929–40), the total annual production in 1940 had reached the equivalent of 238 million tons of standard fuel. The structure of the fuel industry was altered radically, and a new industry—the gas industry—was started. During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), the fascist German invaders caused tremendous damage to the fuel industry. After the war, the industry’s plants were reconstructed during the fourth five-year plan (1946–50), and by 1950 the production of fuel in the USSR exceeded the 1940 level by 31 percent. In subsequent years, the leading branches of the fuel industry—the petroleum and gas industries—have increased at an accelerating rate. The production of fuel in 1975 had increased five times relative to 1950 (see Table 1). The USSR occupies second place behind the USA in the production of fuel.

Petroleum extraction in the USSR in 1975 had increased 13 times relative to 1950 and totaled 490.8 million tons, making the USSR the world’s largest producer of petroleum. Petroleum is extracted in many regions of the Soviet Union, including the area between the Volga River and the Urals, Western Siberia, the Komi ASSR, Middle Asia and Kazakhstan, the Northern Caucasus, Transcaucasia, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Soviet Far East. The production of natural gas in the USSR increased from 3.2 billion cubic meters in 1940 to 289.3 billion cubic meters in 1975. The basis for the rapid rate of development of the gas industry has been the country’s significant reserves of natural gas—the largest natural gas reserves in the world. Gas is produced in large quantities in the Volga Region, the Ukraine, Middle Asia, Western Siberia, the Caucasus, the Far North, and the Urals.

The future development of the petroleum and gas industries is related to the development of resources in Western Siberia, the Urals, the Komi ASSR, and Middle Asia. Of great importance has been the discovery of petroleum and natural gas deposits in regions of Western Siberia, where more than 148 million tons of petroleum and 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas were extracted in 1975.

The coal industry is also undergoing successful development. The USSR has led the world in the production of coal since 1958. In 1975, 701 million tons of coal were extracted in the Soviet Union, which is 24 times greater than the 1913 level. The boundaries of the country’s major coal basins—the Donets and Kuznetsk basins—have been expanded significantly during the years of Soviet power. The extraction of coal has been increased in the Karaganda, Ekibastuz, and Pechora coal basins, and the Kansk-Achinsk, Irkutsk, Lena, and Tunguska coal basins have been surveyed. The Turgai, Taimyr, and Southern Yakut basins represent other major deposits.

Strip mining is an important method of extracting coal. This method provides an increase in labor efficiency of more than a factor of 7 relative to underground mining and reduces operational costs. In the prerevolutionary period, a small quantity of

Table 1. Extraction of fuels in the USSR (converted to a standard fuel of 7,000 Calories1; million tons)
1 I Calorie = 4.19 kilojoules
Petroleum and gas-condensate liquid. . . . . . . . . . . . .14.716.644.554.2211.4502.5701.8
Natural gas. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Coal. . . . . . . . . . . . .23.128.2140.5205.7373.1432.7490.4
Peat. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Oil shale. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Wood. . . . . . . . . . . . .9.76.834.227.928.726.623.8
Total. . . . . . . . . . . . .48.254.2237.9311.2692.81,221.81,590.3

coal was extracted by strip mining in the Urals. This method is now used in the Kuznetsk Basin and for deposits in Eastern Siberia, the Soviet Far East, the Urals, and Kazakhstan. Strip mining of coal in 1975 had increased 36 times relative to 1940 and accounted for 32.2 percent of the total coal production in the USSR.

Processes for the extraction of fuels are being improved, and new methods for working petroleum deposits are being developed. Advanced production processes are being introduced in the petroleum and gas industries, as well as the integrated mechanization and automation of production. Gas pipelines have been put into operation covering routes from Middle Asia to the Central Zone of European Russia, Perm’ to Kazan to Gorky, Orenburg to Kuibyshev, the northern regions of Tiumen’ Oblast to the Urals, and Ukhta to Torzhok. The major trend to the mechanization of excavation operations, namely, the use of narrow-web machines and mechanized aggregate units, has been extensively developed in the coal mines of the USSR.

In other socialist countries, the production of fuel (in figures converted to standard fuel) in 1974 was as follows: Bulgaria, 8.7 million tons; Hungary, 20.7 million tons; the German Democratic Republic, 85.7 million tons; Poland, 157 million tons; Rumania, 70.2 million tons; Czechoslovakia, 65.1 million tons; and Yugoslavia, 31.0 million tons. The fuel extracted in these countries is principally coal; only in Rumania do petroleum and natural gas represent 80 percent of the fuel extracted. In Hungary, in addition to coal, natural gas occupies a significant place in fuel extraction (31 percent).

Table 2. Extraction of fuels in the major capitalist countries (converted to a standard fuel of 7,000 Calories; million tons)
USA. . . . . . . . . . . . .1,1941,4422,1382,047
Great Britain. . . . . . . . . . . . .220197160154
France. . . . . . . . . . . . .53.666.053.840.2
Federal Republic of Germany. . . . . . . . . . . . .148175165161
Italy. . . . . . . . . . . . .4.115.622.224.1
Japan. . . . . . . . . . . . .

The USA occupies the leading position in fuel production among the capitalist countries (see Table 2).

In the early 1970’s, the fuel industries of the developed capitalist countries, under conditions of a heightened world economic crisis, experienced severe difficulties as a result of a shortage of energy resources and an increase in prices, primarily for liquid fuel.


Materialy XXVs”ezda KPSS. Moscow, 1976.
Kortunov, A. K. Gazovaiapromyshlennost’ SSSR. Moscow, 1967.
Energeticheskie resursy SSSR [vol. 1] Toplivno-energeticheskie resursy. Moscow, 1968.
Neftedobyvaiushchaia promyshlennost’ SSSR: 1917–1968. Moscow, 1968.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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