Resource occurrence

The presence of a natural resource anywhere on Earth is known as an occurrence.[1] This means it includes natural resources that are known to exist or not yet found (and may never be found). Therefore, the total occurrence of a resource is "how much" of a certain resource exists on Earth. This is an important idea since a fossil fuel's total occurrence will deplete every time it is extracted.[2] When energy companies discuss natural resources, the focus is on the reserves rather than the total occurrence. This is because there's no interest in an occurrence that isn't profitable. The quantity of a reserve is known, but always fluctuates. The resource's total occurrence is limited (for most resources, see next section for more info). The total occurrence of fossil fuels or other mineral deposits don't increase because the usage of natural resources is so much faster than the time it takes for them to form (see fossil fuel formation).

Fuel's total occurrence decreases

An occurrence can refer to a primary fuel or primary energy flow (see fuel vs flow for more information). Although a fuel's occurrence is difficult to truly quantify, a primary flow's occurrence is often known. For example, the total occurrence of wind is all of the wind that's blowing on the planet at any given moment. Renewable energy technologies (ex. solar power and wind power) can only be used when these resources occur. The occurrence of primary fuels and primary energy flows play an integral role in powering a high energy society through energy conversion technologies. A primary flows occurrence is independent of whether or not its used (because it just "exists"). A fuel's total occurrence will decrease when the resource is extracted from the ground. Although quite extensive, the fuels that power societies have a total occurrence that is limited.

In the video below, a member of the Energy Education team explains about resource occurrence:

For Further Reading


  1. ** The term of occurrence is a word formed by the Energy Education team, to describe this abstract concept. This is because we are unable to find resources or industry describing it. Please feel free to reach out to us if there is another term used in the Energy Industry to describe this. Thank you. **
  2. Or a metal like uranium, or copper. Really any deposit that's used will deplete.

Authors and Editors

Bethel Afework, Jason Donev
Last updated: April 28, 2020
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