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)
- Kilowatthour 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 = 0.00786 Mcf (1,000 cubic feet)
- Petroleum = 0.00188 barrels (or 0.08 gallons)
Kilowatthour 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 Natural Gas
- Can I obtain a list of companies involved in the natural gas industry, such as utilities, pipeline companies, and storage operators?
- Does EIA have city or county-level energy consumption and price data?
- Does EIA have maps or information on the location of natural gas and oil pipelines?
- Does EIA have projections for energy production, consumption, and prices for individual states?
- Does EIA publish shale gas and coal bed methane production and reserves data?
- How can I choose my natural gas supplier in my state?
- How does EIA calculate the year-ago and five-year averages in the Natural Gas Weekly Storage Report?
- 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?
- Where are the historical spot prices for natural gas?
- Where is the boundary for state and federal offshore oil and gas production?
- Which states consume and produce the most natural gas?
- Why am I being charged more for propane than the price on EIA's website?
- How much natural gas does the United States have and how long will it last?
- How much natural gas is consumed (used) in the United States?
- How much shale gas is produced in the United States?
- What are Ccf, Mcf, Btu, and therms? How do I convert natural gas prices in dollars per Ccf, or Mcf to dollars per Btu or therm?
- What are the major factors affecting natural gas prices?
- What can I expect to pay for heating this winter?
- What is the average price of natural gas for electric-power-generation?
- What is the outlook for home heating fuel prices this winter?
- What is the total working gas capacity in underground natural gas storage?
- What is the volume of world natural gas reserves?
- What percentage of homes in the U.S. use natural gas?
- What types and amounts of energy are produced in each state?