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 kilowatt-hour 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 unit of electricity:
- Amount of fuel used per kilowatt-hour (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 kilowatt-hour (kWh):
- Coal = 0.00053 Short Tons or 1.07 Pounds
- Natural Gas = 0.00798 Mcf (1,000 cubic feet)
- Residual Fuel Oil = 0.00184 Barrels (or 0.08 gallons)
KWh generated per unit of fuel used:
- 1,870 kWh per Ton of Coal or 0.9 kWh per Pound of Coal
- 125 kWh per Mcf (1,000 cubic feet) of Natural Gas
- 542 kWh per Barrel of Petroleum, or 13 kWh per Gallon
Coal = 10,444 Btu/kWh
Natural Gas = 8,152 Btu/kWh
Petroleum = 10,829 Btu/kWh
Coal = 19,530,000 Btu per Short Ton (2,000 lbs) Note: heat contents of coal vary widely by types of coal
Natural Gas = 1,021,000 Btu per 1,000 Cubic Feet (Mcf)
Petroleum Fuel Oil = 5,871,390 Btu per Barrel (42 gallons) Note: Heat contents vary by type of petroleum product
Last updated: February 15, 2013
Other FAQs about Crude Oil
- Do we have enough oil worldwide to meet our future needs?
- 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 processed in U.S. refineries?
- Does EIA have maps or information on the location of natural gas and oil pipelines?
- 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 kilowatt-hour of electricity?
- How much does it cost to produce crude oil and natural gas?
- When was the last refinery built in the United States?
- Where is the boundary for state and federal offshore oil and gas production?
- Why don't fuel prices change as quickly as crude oil prices?
- Why is the United States exporting gasoline when prices are so high?
- How much of the oil produced in the United States is consumed in the United States?
- How much oil does the United States consume per year?
- How much oil is produced in Alaska and where does it go?
- How much oil is used to make plastic?
- How much petroleum does the United States import and from where?
- What are the differences between various types of crude oil prices?
- What are the products and uses of petroleum?
- What countries are the top world oil consumers?
- What countries are the top world oil net exporters?
- 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?
- What is the outlook for home heating fuel prices this winter?
- What types and amounts of energy are produced in each state?