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Alabama   Alabama Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

Profile AnalysisPrint State Energy Profile
(overview, data, & analysis)

Last Updated: June 20, 2019

Overview

Alabama’s timberland acreage—the third largest in the Lower 48 states—gives the state ample biomass energy resources.

Alabama is a major producer of electricity and the state is also rich in energy resources, with sizable deposits of coal, as well as some crude oil, natural gas, and coalbed methane reserves.1,2,3 Located along the Gulf of Mexico, southern Alabama consists of a coastal plain with a humid, subtropical climate. The state's north includes the southern edge of the Appalachian Mountains, where below-zero temperatures occur every few years and measurable snow is common.4,5 Alabama's many rivers flow from the Appalachian highlands toward the Gulf of Mexico, and several dams along those rivers provide hydroelectric power.6,7,8 Forests cover more than two-thirds of Alabama—the third-largest timberland acreage among the Lower 48 states—giving the state ample biomass resources.9

Alabama ranks among the top one-fourth of all states in energy consumption per person, mainly because of high demand from the state's industrial sector, which accounts for more than two-fifths of the state's total energy consumption.10,11 Aerospace and aviation, automobiles, chemicals, food production, forestry, metals manufacturing, and mining industries are major contributors to Alabama's economy. Alabama ranks among the top 5 states in the manufacture of cars and light trucks and produced about 1 million vehicles in 2018.12,13,14 The transportation sector uses about one-fourth of the state's total energy consumption. Despite high energy use for cooling during the state's hot, humid summers and the widespread use of electricity for home heating in the winter, the residential sector and the commercial sector together account for only about one-third of Alabama's total energy consumption.15,16,17

Electricity

The Browns Ferry power plant has the second-largest nuclear power generating capacity in the nation.

Alabama ranks sixth among the states in electricity net generation.18 The state is the nation's fourth largest generator of electricity from nuclear power. Alabama's two nuclear power plants, with a total of five reactors, typically produce about one-fourth of the electricity generated in the state.19,20,21 The three reactors at the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in north Alabama have the second-largest combined generating capacity of any U.S. nuclear power plant, after Arizona's Palo Verde nuclear power plant.22,23

Natural gas has fueled the largest share of electricity in Alabama since 2014 and net generation from natural gas has more than doubled since 2008 to two-fifths of the state's net generation in 2018. Coal historically fueled the largest share of electric power generation in the state, but aging coal-fired generating plants have been shut down, including nearly 3,200 megawatts of coal-fired generation capacity from 2015 through 2018.24,25 Since 2008, coal-fired power plants' contribution to Alabama's net generation has fallen from more than half to just over one-fifth in 2018.26

Alabama is the second-largest hydroelectric power producer east of the Rocky Mountains, after New York.27 Nearly two dozen hydroelectric dams on the state's rivers typically supply almost 8% of net generation.28,29 Alabama also ranks among the top five states for electricity generation from biomass—about 2% of total generation—and almost all of it is from wood and wood-derived fuels from the state's substantial forest products industry.30,31

Power production in Alabama exceeds the state's consumption, and typically about one-third of the electricity generated is delivered to neighboring states over high-voltage interstate transmission lines.32,33 Alabama's industrial sector and residential sector each account for almost two-fifths of the electricity sold in the state.34 Average monthly consumption of electricity per household in Alabama's residential sector is the third highest in the nation, at least partially because of the high demand for air conditioning in the hot summers and the widespread use of electricity for home heating in the winter.35,36 About 6 out of 10 Alabama households heat with electricity.37

Coal

Mobile is the fourth-largest seaport for U.S. coal exports and first in volume of coal imports.

Coal has been mined commercially in Alabama since the 1850s and supported development of the iron and steel industry in the state.38 Alabama holds about 1% of U.S. economically recoverable coal reserves, and in 2017 the state ranked 14th in total coal production and 8th in bituminous coal production.39 Alabama produces large amounts of bituminous coal from both surface and underground mines.40,41 About three-fourths of the coal produced in the state is exported to other countries.42,43 During 2018, the Mobile seaport ranked fourth in the nation for shipping U.S. coal exports and first in handling coal imports.44 Almost one-fifth of the coal mined in Alabama is delivered by barge, railroad, and truck to electric power plants in the state. Nearly one-tenth of the state's mined coal is delivered to coking plants and other industrial facilities in Alabama. Minor amounts of Alabama coal also are delivered to coking plants and other industrial plants in Indiana and Ohio.45,46

Only about one-fifth of the coal used in Alabama is mined in the state. Wyoming supplies three-fifths of the U.S. coal distributed in Alabama, and Illinois provides about one-tenth. Almost all of the coal from those two states is delivered to electric power plants, the largest coal consumers in Alabama. The remaining one-tenth of domestic coal consumed in Alabama arrives by railroad, river barge, and truck from half a dozen other states.47,48

Petroleum

Alabama's economically recoverable crude oil reserves are small—only about 0.1% of the U.S. total.49 Oil was discovered in Alabama in the mid-1940s.50 Today, a small amount of crude oil is produced from fields in the northwestern part of the state and on the Alabama Gulf Coast in the southwestern part of the state.51,52 The state's annual crude oil production increased slightly from 2011 through 2013, but output has declined annually since then. Production in 2018 fell below 6 million barrels for the first time in more than four decades. The state's peak oil production was 22 million barrels in the mid-1980s.53

Alabama’s three oil refineries can process about 142,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Alabama has three petroleum refineries. The state's largest is located near the Port of Mobile. Another refinery is in Tuscaloosa on the Black Warrior River, and the third and smallest refinery is in Atmore. The refineries have a combined capacity of nearly 142,000 barrels of crude oil per calendar day54 and can process a range of domestic and imported crude oils. Refined products include feedstocks for chemical plants, motor gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, residual fuel, and asphalt for local and regional markets.55,56,57 Alabama receives additional refined products from Texas and Louisiana via two major interstate pipelines—the Colonial and Plantation pipelines—that also move gasoline and other petroleum products through Alabama to supply half a dozen other southern and East Coast states.58,59

Most of the petroleum used in Alabama is consumed as transportation fuels, mainly motor gasoline and diesel fuel.60 Conventional gasoline without ethanol can be sold throughout state, even though almost all U.S. gasoline is blended with at least 10% ethanol.61,62,63 Alabama does not have any ethanol plants,64 but the state does have one facility that can produce 20 million gallons of biodiesel a year.65 Only about 0.2% of Alabama households heat with fuel oil or kerosene, but about 6% heat with propane.66

Natural gas

Alabama produces natural gas both onshore and offshore in state waters, including in Mobile Bay. The state's proved reserves of natural gas have fallen to about one-fourth of their peak estimate in 1992 and now comprise less than 0.5% of total U.S. economically recoverable natural gas reserves.67,68 Alabama's annual natural gas production has steadily declined for the past two decades and output is down about three-fourths from its peak in 1996. The state contributes about 0.5% to the nation's total natural gas production.69,70 Three-fifths of Alabama's natural gas production comes from onshore wells, and more than two-thirds of that onshore production is in the form of coalbed methane—a natural gas derived from coal seams. The state's coalbed methane wells are located primarily in the Black Warrior Basin of northwestern Alabama.71,72,73

Alabama production meets about one-fourth of the state's natural gas demand.74,75 The state receives additional natural gas by interstate pipelines, mainly from Mississippi, but increasing volumes are shipped south through Tennessee from Pennsylvania and Ohio natural gas fields in the Marcellus and Utica shales. More than four-fifths of the natural gas entering Alabama continues through the state, mainly to Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi.76

An increasing amount of the natural gas delivered to Alabama goes to power plants as fuel for electricity generation. Since 2007, the electric power sector has been the largest natural gas-consuming sector in the state and accounted for 60% of total natural gas use in 2018. The industrial sector consumed the second-largest amount of natural gas—almost 30% of the state's total.77,78 Although about 3 out of every 10 Alabama households use natural gas for heating, the residential sector typically uses only about 5% of the natural gas delivered to customers, primarily because of the state's mild winters.79,80

Renewable energy

Renewable energy sources supplied 10% of the electricity generated in Alabama in 2018. Hydroelectric facilities accounted for nearly three-fourths of the state's renewable electricity generation. Almost all the rest of Alabama's utility-scale renewable generation came from biomass, most of which is generated at industrial facilities.81,82 Alabama's biomass resources also provide feedstock for the state's five commercial wood pellet plants, which have a combined annual production capacity of 728,000 short tons—about 5% of the nation's total.83

Alabama’s solar power generation increased 111% from 2017 to 2018, the eighth-largest growth rate for any state.

Alabama's solar generation is small, but in 2018 the state had the eighth-largest growth rate in solar power—more than doubling from 2017—mainly because the state's solar generation is relatively new.84 Alabama's first commercial solar farm, with 75 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) generating capacity, began operating in 2016.85 The largest solar power facility in the state is a 79-megawatt solar farm that began operating in late 2017.86,87 Alabama's installed utility-scale solar power generation capacity totaled nearly 200 megawatts at the end of 2018.88 TVA has announced plans to build what will be the state's largest solar farm—a 227-megawatt facility in northwest Alabama—to supply power to a large computer data center.89,90 There is currently little distributed (customer-sited, small-scale) solar generating capacity in the state, though several companies have installed systems at their facilities.91,92

Alabama has no utility-scale (1 megawatt or larger) wind generation, but there are a few areas along its short Gulf coastline and along stretches of the Appalachian mountaintops in northeastern Alabama with modest wind resources.93,94

Alabama does not have a renewable portfolio standard or a voluntary renewable energy goal, but does encourage energy savings and efficiency.95,96 The state has an energy building code for commercial and residential buildings and energy conservation measures for state-owned buildings.97,98 TVA and several other electricity providers in the state offer homeowners and businesses financial incentives to save energy or to install renewable energy generation facilities.99

Endnotes

1 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Annual Coal Report 2017 (November 26, 2018), Table 15, Recoverable Coal Reserves at Producing Mines, Estimated Recoverable Reserves, and Demonstrated Reserve Base by Mining Method, 2017.
2 U.S. EIA, Alabama Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed May 13, 2019.
3 U.S. EIA, Coalbed Methane, Proved Reserves as of December 31, 2012-17.
4 University of Alabama, Department of Geography, Physiographic Regions, accessed May 13, 2019.
5 Christy, John, "Alabama's Climate, It's the Humidity!" Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, State Climate Series, accessed May 13, 2019.
6 Geology.com, Alabama Lakes, Rivers and Water Resources, accessed May 13, 2019.
7 Alabama Power, Our Lakes and Dams, accessed May 13, 2019.
8 Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA in Alabama, accessed May 13, 2019.
9 Alabama Forestry Commission, Forest Resources Report 2017, p. 4, accessed May 13, 2019.
10 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C13, Energy Consumption per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2016.
11 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C10, Energy Consumption by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2016.
12 Alabama Department of Commerce, Made in Alabama, Industries, Targeted Business Sectors, accessed May 13, 2019.
13 Alabama Department of Commerce, Made in Alabama, Automotive, accessed May 13, 2019.
14 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Interactive Data, Regional Data, GDP and Personal Income, Annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State, GDP in current dollars, Alabama, All statistics in table, 2017.
15 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C10, Energy Consumption by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2016.
16 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Alabama, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
17 U.S. EIA, Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 2015 RECs Survey Data, Tables HC6.8, Space Heating, and HC7.8, Air Conditioning, East South Central census division (February 2017).
18 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2019), Table 1.3.B.
19 U.S. EIA, U.S. Nuclear Generation and Generating Capacity, Capacity and Generation by State and Reactor, 2019P.
20 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2019), Table 1.9.B.
21 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001-18.
22 Gattis, Paul, "TVA completing $500M upgrade at Alabama nuclear plant," Al.com (May 20, 2019).
23 U.S. EIA, Nuclear Reactor, State, and Net Capacity (November 2018).
24 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001-18.
25 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2019, February 2017), Table 6.2.C.
26 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001-18.
27 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2019), Table 1.10.B.
28 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2015-18.
29 AL.com, Hydroelectric Power Plants in Alabama, accessed May 15, 2019.
30 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2019), Table 1.15.B.
31 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2015-18.
32 U.S. EIA, State Electricity Profiles, Alabama, 2017, Table 10, Supply and disposition of electricity, 1990 through 2017.
33 U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Electric Power Markets: Southeast, updated March 10, 2016.
34 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2019), Table 5.4.B.
35 U.S. EIA, Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 2015 RECs Survey Data, Tables HC6.8, Space Heating, and HC7.8, Air Conditioning, East South Central census division (February 2017).
36 U.S. EIA, Electric Sales, Revenue, and Average Price, 2017 Average Monthly Bill-Residential, Average Monthly Consumption (kWh), accessed May 15, 2019.
37 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Alabama, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
38 Mining Artifacts, Alabama Mines, accessed May 14, 2019.
39 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2017 (November 26, 2018), Table 6, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Coal Rank, 2017 and Table 15, Recoverable Coal Reserves at Producing Mines, Estimated Recoverable Reserves, and Demonstrated Reserve Base by Mining Method, 2017.
40 Coalfields of the Appalachian Mountains, Northern Alabama Coalfields (Including Georgia), accessed May 14, 2019.
41 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2017 (November 26, 2018), Table 2, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State, County, and Mine Type, 2017.
42 U.S. EIA, Quarterly Coal Report, 4th Quarter 2018 (April 1, 2019), Table 2, Coal Production by State.
43 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2017 (November 15, 2018), Domestic and foreign distribution of U.S. coal by origin State.
44 U.S. EIA, Quarterly Coal Report, 4th Quarter 2018 (April 1, 2019), Table 13, U.S. Coal Exports by Customs District and Table 20, Coal Imports by Customs District.
45 U.S. EIA, Quarterly Coal Report, 4th Quarter 2018 (April 1, 2019), Table 2, Coal Production by State.
46 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2017 (November 5, 2018), Domestic Distribution of U.S. coal by origin State, consumer, destination and method of transportation, Table OS-1, Alabama, 2017.
47 U.S. EIA, Quarterly Coal Report, 4th Quarter 2018 (April 1, 2019), Table 2, Coal Production by State.
48 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2017 (November 5, 2018), Domestic Distribution of U.S. coal by destination State, consumer, destination and method of transportation, Table DS-1, Alabama, 2017.
49 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Proved Reserves, Reserves Changes, and Production, 2012-17.
50 Hall, Douglas R., and David E. Bolin, The Petroleum Industry in Alabama, 1999-2007, Oil and Gas Report 3U, Geological Survey of Alabama (2009), p. 1, 2.
51 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Production, Annual Thousand Barrels, 2012-17.
52 U.S. EIA, Alabama Profile Overview, Map, Layers/Legend, Oil Wells: High-Level View, Tight Oil/Shale Gas Play, accessed May 13, 2019.
53 U.S. EIA, Alabama Field Production of Crude Oil, Annual, 1981-2018.
54 U.S. EIA, Refinery Capacity Report 2018 (June 25, 2018), Table 3, Capacity of Operable Petroleum Refineries by State as of January 1, 2017.
55 Shell, Mobile, AL, accessed May 13, 2019.
56 Goodway Refining, LLC, accessed May 13, 2019.
57 Hunt Refining Company, Refining Operations, Tuscaloosa Refinery, accessed May 13, 2019.
58 Colonial Pipeline Company, System Map, accessed May 13, 2019.
59 Kinder Morgan, Plantation Pipe Line Company (PPL), accessed May 13, 2019.
60 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C2, Energy Consumption Estimates for Major Energy Sources in Physical Units, 2016.
61 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Reformulated Gasoline, updated December 5, 2016.
62 American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), U.S. Gasoline Requirements, updated January 2018.
63 U.S. EIA, "Almost all U.S. gasoline is blended with 10% ethanol," Today in Energy (May 4, 2016).
64 U.S. EIA, U.S. Fuel Ethanol Plant Production Capacity (July 30, 2018), Detailed nameplate capacity of fuel ethanol plants by Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PADD District) are available in XLS file.
65 U.S. EIA, Monthly Biodiesel Production Report (May 31, 2019), Table 4, Biodiesel producers and production capacity, by state.
66 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Alabama, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
67 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals, Annual, 2013-18.
68 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Reserves Summary as of Dec. 31, Wet NG, 2012-17.
69 U.S. EIA, Alabama Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals, 1967-2017.
70 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals, Annual, 2013-18.
71 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals, Annual, 2013-18.
72 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals from Coalbed Wells, Annual-Million cubic feet, 2013-18.
73 Coalbed Methane Association of Alabama, Coalbed Methane in Alabama, accessed May 14, 2019.
74 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Marketed Production, Annual, 2013-18.
75 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Alabama, Annual, 2017.
76 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Alabama, Annual, 2012-17.
77 U.S. EIA, Alabama Natural Gas Deliveries to Electric Power Customers, 1997-2018.
78 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Alabama, Annual, 2013-18.
79 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Alabama, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
80 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Alabama, Annual, 2013-18.
81 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2015-18.
82 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2019), Table 1.15.B.
83 U.S. Pellet Plants, Operational, Biomass Magazine, updated September 21, 2018.
84 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2019), Table 1.17.B.
85 Smith, Tom, "River Bend Solar Energy Center operational, selling solar power," Times Daily (November 20, 2016).
86 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 detailed data with previous form data (EIA-860A/860B), 2018 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
87 Pillion, Dennis, "Alabama's largest solar farm unveiled in Chambers County," AL.com (March 16, 2018).
88 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 detailed data with previous form data (EIA-860A/860B), 2018 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only), Solar Photovoltaic.
89 Gattis, Paul, "Alabama's largest solar farm to power Facebook in Huntsville," AL.com (November 2, 2018).
90 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (April 24, 2019), Table 6.5.
91 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2015-18.
92 Solar Energy Industries Association, Alabama Solar, accessed May 15, 2019.
93 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Wind Energy in Alabama, Maps & Data, accessed May 15, 2019.
94 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2019), Table 1.14.B.
95 National Council of State Legislatures, State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, updated February 1, 2019.
96 Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Alabama Energy and Residential Codes, accessed May 15, 2019.
97 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Alabama Energy Code, updated October 22, 2015.
98 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Energy Standards for State Agencies, updated May 9, 2016.
99 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, TVA Green Power Providers, updated November 1, 2018.