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 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?
- 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 kilowatt-hour of electricity?
- How much does it cost to produce crude oil and natural gas?
- Where are the historical spot prices for natural gas?
- Where can I find shale gas and coal bed methane production and reserves data?
- 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 U.S.?
- How much shale gas is produced in the United States?
- What are Ccf, Mcf, Btu, and therms? How do I convert prices in Ccf and Mcf to Btus and therms?
- What are the major factors affecting natural gas prices?
- What can I expect to pay for heating this winter?
- What is the average cost of natural gas used 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?