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 Crude Oil
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- Does EIA have data on U.S. oil refineries and their locations?
- Does EIA have data on shale (or “tight oil”) production?
- Does EIA have data on the movement of crude oil and ethanol by rail and truck?
- Does EIA have data on the type or quality of crude oil?
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- Does EIA have projections for energy production, consumption, and prices for individual states?
- How dependent is the United States on foreign oil?
- How many gallons of gasoline does one barrel of oil make?
- How much coal, natural gas, or petroleum is used to generate a kilowatthour of electricity?
- How much does it cost to produce crude oil and natural gas?
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- What countries are the top world oil net importers?
- What countries are the top world oil producers?
- What do I pay for in a gallon of regular gasoline?
- What is the difference between crude oil, petroleum products, and petroleum?
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- What types and amounts of energy are produced in each state?