U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis
Frequently Asked Questions
How much coal, natural gas, or petroleum is used to generate a kilowatthour of electricity?
The amount of fuel used to generate electricity depends on the efficiency or heat rate of the generator (or power plant) and the heat content of the fuel. Power plant efficiencies (heat rates) vary by types of generators, power plant emission controls, and other factors. Fuel heat contents also vary.
Two formulas for calculating the amount of fuel used to generate a kilowatthour (kwh) of electricity:
- Amount of fuel used per kwh = Heat rate (in Btu per kwh) / Fuel heat content (in Btu per physical unit)
- Kwh generated per unit of fuel used = Fuel heat content (in Btu per physical unit) / Heat rate (in Btu per kwh)
Calculation examples using these two formulas and the assumptions below:
Amount of fuel used to generate one kilowatthour (kwh):
- Coal = 0.00054 short tons or 1.09 pounds
- Natural gas = 0.00796 Mcf (1,000 cubic feet)
- Petroleum = 0.00188 barrels (or 0.08 gallons)
Kwh generated per unit of fuel used:
- 1,842 kwh per ton of Coal or 0.9 kwh per pound of Coal
- 127 kwh per Mcf (1,000 cubic feet) of Natural gas
- 533 kwh per barrel of Petroleum, or 12.7 kwh per gallon
Coal = 10,498 Btu/kwh
Natural gas = 8,039 Btu/kwh
Petroleum = 10,991 Btu/kwh
Coal = 19,336,000 Btu per short ton (2,000 lbs) Note: heat contents of coal vary widely by types of coal.
Natural gas = 1,023,000 Btu per 1,000 Cubic Feet (Mcf)
Petroleum = 5,861,814 Btu per Barrel (42 gallons) Note: Heat contents vary by type of petroleum product.
Last updated: January 15, 2014
Other FAQs about Electricity
- Can I choose the electricity supplier where I live?
- Can I generate and sell electricity to an electric utility?
- Does EIA have city or county-level energy consumption and price data?
- Does EIA have county-level energy production data?
- Does EIA have data on each power plant in the United States?
- Does EIA have data on the costs for electricity transmission and distribution?
- Does EIA have electricity prices by state?
- Does EIA have information on the service territories of U.S. electric utilities?
- Does EIA have maps or information on the location of electric power plants and transmission lines in the United States?
- Does EIA have projections for energy production, consumption, and prices for individual states?
- Does EIA publish data on peak or hourly electricity generation, demand, and prices?
- Does EIA publish electric utility rate, tariff, and demand charge data?
- How is electricity used in U.S. homes?
- How many and what kind of power plants are there in the United States?
- How many nuclear power plants are in the U.S. and where are they located?
- How many smart meters are installed in the U.S. and who has them?
- How much coal, natural gas, or petroleum is used to generate a kilowatthour of electricity?
- How much does it cost to build different types of power plants in the United States?
- How much does it cost to generate electricity with different types of power plants?
- How much electricity does a typical nuclear power plant generate?
- How much electricity does an American home use?
- How much electricity is lost in transmission and distribution in the United States?
- How much electricity is used for cooling in the United States?
- How much electricity is used for lighting in the United States?
- How much energy is consumed in the world by each sector?
- How much of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are associated with electricity generation?
- How much of world energy consumption and electricity generation is from renewable energy?
- How old are U.S. power plants?
- What is U.S. electricity generation by energy source?
- What is a capacity factor?
- What is the difference between electricity generation capacity and electricity generation?
- What is the efficiency of different types of power plants?
- What is the outlook for home heating fuel prices this winter?
- What types and amounts of energy are produced in each state?