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Alabama   Alabama Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

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

Last Updated: August 19, 2021

Overview

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

Alabama has a wide variety of energy resources, with deposits of coal, as well as some crude oil and natural gas reserves.1,2 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.3,4 Alabama's many rivers flow from the Appalachian highlands toward the Gulf of Mexico, and several dams along those rivers provide hydroelectric power.5,6,7 Forests cover more than two-thirds of Alabama, and the state has the third-largest total timberland acreage among the Lower 48 states, after Georgia and Oregon, which gives the state ample biomass resources.8,9

Alabama ranks among the top 15 states in energy consumption per capita, mainly because of high energy demand from the state's industrial sector, which accounts for slightly more than two-fifths of the state's total energy consumption. Alabama ranks among the 10 states with the highest industrial sector energy use.10,11 It is among the top five states in the manufacture of cars and light trucks, producing about 1 million vehicles annually, and it is fourth-largest auto exporting state. The manufacture of automobiles and other transportation equipment, chemicals, paper and wood products, as well as mining and oil and gas extraction, agriculture, and forestry, are major contributors to Alabama's economy.12,13,14 The transportation sector accounts for 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 makes up slightly less than one-fifth of energy use and the commercial sector accounts for about one-eighth of Alabama's energy consumption.15,16,17

Electricity

Alabama ranks sixth among the states in electricity net generation.18 Natural gas has fueled the largest share of electricity in Alabama since 2014 and accounted for 40% of the state's net generation in 2020.19

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

Alabama is the nation's fourth-largest producer of electricity from nuclear power.20 Alabama's two nuclear power plants, with a total of five reactors, produced 32% of the electricity generated in the state in 2020. 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 among U.S. nuclear power plants, after Arizona's Palo Verde nuclear power plant.21,22

Coal had historically fueled the largest share of electric power generation in Alabama, but aging coal-fired generating plants have shut down, with about 4,200 megawatts of coal-fired generating capacity retiring from 2015 through 2020.23,24 Since 2010, coal-fired power plants' contribution to Alabama's net generation dropped by more than half, declining to 16% of the state's total generation in 2020.25

Alabama is the second-largest hydroelectric power producer east of the Rocky Mountains, after New York.26 Twenty-three hydroelectric dams on Alabama's rivers provided almost 9% of the state's net generation in 2020.27,28 Alabama also ranks among the top five states in electricity generation from biomass—about 2% of the state's total generation—and almost all of it is from burning wood and wood-derived fuels from the state's substantial forest products industry.29,30

Alabama's electricity production exceeds its consumption, and nearly one-third of the electricity generated in the state is sent to neighboring states over the regional electric grid.31,32 Alabama's residential sector and industrial sector each account for slightly less than two-fifths of the electricity sold in the state.33 The commercial sector makes up one-fourth of the state's electricity sales. Total electricity consumption per capita in Alabama is fifth-highest in the nation and per capita electricity use in the residential sector ranks third, due in part to the high demand for air conditioning in the hot summers and the widespread use of electricity for home heating in the winter.34,35 Almost 7 out of 10 Alabama households heat with electricity.36

Coal

Coal has been mined commercially in Alabama since the 1850s and supported development of the iron and steel industry in the state.37 Alabama holds about 1% of U.S. economically recoverable coal reserves. In 2019, the state ranked 12th in total coal production and 7th in bituminous coal production, the most abundant type of coal found in the United States. Bituminous coal is used to generate electricity and to make steel.38,39 More than 80% of the coal produced in Alabama comes from 7 underground mines, and the rest comes from 22 surface mines.40 More than four-fifths of the coal distributed by Alabama is exported to other countries.41

Mobile is the largest U.S. seaport for coal imports and third-largest for coal exports.

During 2020, the Mobile seaport ranked first in the nation for handling U.S. coal imports and third in shipping U.S. coal exports.42 Almost 90% of Alabama coal that is used domestically is delivered by barge, railroad, and truck to electric power plants, coking plants, and other industrial facilities in the state. Minor amounts of Alabama coal also are delivered to coking plants and other industrial plants in several other states, primarily Indiana and Ohio.43,44 Less than one-tenth of the coal used in Alabama is mined in the state. Wyoming supplies about three-fifths of the U.S. coal consumed in Alabama. All of the Wyoming coal is delivered to power plants in the electric power sector, which is the largest coal consumer in Alabama. The remaining domestic coal consumed in Alabama arrives by railroad, river barge, and truck from about half a dozen other states.45

Petroleum

Alabama's economically recoverable crude oil reserves are small—only about 0.1% of the U.S. total.46 Oil was discovered in west-central Alabama in the mid-1940s a few miles from the border with Mississippi.47 Today, a small amount of crude oil is produced from fields in the northwestern and southwestern parts of the state.48,49 The state's annual crude oil production increased slightly from 2011 through 2013, but output has declined annually since then. Production in 2020 fell to 4.3 million barrels, the lowest level in more than six decades.50,51

Alabama’s three oil refineries combined can process about 140,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Alabama has three petroleum refineries with a combined processing capacity of about 140,000 barrels of crude oil per calendar day. The state's largest refinery is located near Mobile. The second-largest refinery is in Tuscaloosa on the Black Warrior River, and the third and smallest refinery is in Atmore.52 The refineries can process a range of domestic and imported crude oils into refined products that include: feedstocks for chemical plants, motor gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, residual fuel, and asphalt for local and regional markets.53,54,55 Alabama receives additional refined products from Texas and Louisiana via two major interstate pipelines—the Colonial Pipeline and the PPL Pipeline (formerly known as the Plantation Pipeline). These pipelines move gasoline and other petroleum products through Alabama to supply half a dozen other southern and eastern states.56,57,58

About 90% of the petroleum used in Alabama is consumed as transportation fuels, mainly motor gasoline and diesel fuel.59 Conventional gasoline without ethanol can be sold throughout the state, although almost all U.S. gasoline is blended with at least 10% ethanol.60,61 Alabama does not have any ethanol production plants, but the state consumes about 266 million gallons of fuel ethanol per year.62,63 Alabama has one biodiesel production plant that can produce 20 million gallons a year, and the state is the 11th-largest biodiesel-consuming state.64,65 About 6 out of 100 Alabama households heat with petroleum, mainly 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 the early 1990s and now comprise about 0.3% of U.S. total natural gas reserves.67,68 Alabama's annual marketed natural gas production also has steadily declined for the past two decades. The state contributes about 0.4% to the nation's total natural gas production.69,70 Three-fifths of Alabama's natural gas production comes from onshore wells, and most of that onshore production is in the form of coalbed methane—a natural gas produced from coal seams. The state's coalbed methane wells are located primarily in the Black Warrior Basin in northwestern Alabama.71,72,73

Alabama's natural gas production meets about one-fifth of the state's gas demand.74,75 The state receives additional natural gas through interstate pipelines, mainly from Mississippi, but large volumes are also 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 that enters Alabama continues on through the state, mainly to Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi.76

An increasing amount of the natural gas consumed in 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 deliveries in 2020. The industrial sector consumed the second-largest amount of natural gas—about 32% of the state's total. 77,78 Although about 3 out of 10 Alabama households use natural gas for heating, the residential sector typically accounts for only about 4% of the state's natural gas consumption. The commercial sector accounts for slightly more than 3% of the state's natural gas use.79,80

Renewable energy

Alabama has a wood pellet manufacturing plant that uses peanut hulls as feedstock.

In 2020, renewable energy sources generated about 12% of Alabama's in-state electricity. Hydroelectric facilities accounted for more than three-fourths of the state's renewable electricity generation. Almost all the rest of Alabama's utility-scale (1 megawatt or larger) renewable generation came from biomass, mostly from wood and wood-derived fuels at industrial facilities.81,82 Alabama's biomass resources also provide feedstock for the state's three commercial wood pellet plants, which have a combined annual production capacity of 432,000 short tons—about 3% of the nation's total. The smallest plant's feedstock includes peanut hulls to make wood pellets.83,84

Alabama's total solar power generation is small, but increased in recent years, and in 2020 it accounted for about 2% of the state's renewable generation.85 The state's strongest solar resources are located in the southeast corner of Alabama and along the state's short Gulf Coast shoreline.86 Alabama's first commercial solar farm, with 75 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) generating capacity, began operating in 2016. The state had nearly 200 megawatts of installed utility-scale solar power generating capacity at the beginning of 2021. A 227-megawatt solar farm in northwest Alabama, which will be the state's largest, is scheduled to come online in 2021 and will supply power to a large computer data center.87,88,89 There is currently little customer-sited, small-scale solar generating capacity—such as residential rooftop solar panels—in the state.90,91

Alabama has no utility-scale wind generation, but there are a few areas along its Gulf coastline and along stretches of the Appalachian mountain ridges in the northeastern part of the state that have modest wind resources.92,93 In June 2021, the U.S. Department of the Interior published a request to see if there was any interest among energy companies in leasing tracts in federal waters that begin three miles off the Alabama coast and extend 200 miles into the Gulf of Mexico for commercial wind power development.94,95

Alabama does not have a renewable portfolio standard or a voluntary renewable energy goal but does encourage energy savings and efficiency.96,97 The state has an energy building code for commercial and residential buildings and energy conservation measures for state-owned buildings.98,99

Endnotes

1 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Annual Coal Report 2019 (October 15, 2020), Table 15, Recoverable Coal Reserves at Producing Mines, Estimated Recoverable Reserves, and Demonstrated Reserve Base by Mining Method, 2019.
2 U.S. EIA, Alabama Profile Data, Reserves, Supply & Distribution.
3 University of Alabama, Department of Geography, Physiographic Regions, accessed July 13, 2021.
4 Christy, John, "Alabama's Climate, It's the Humidity!" Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, State Climate Series, accessed July 13, 2021.
5 Geology.com, Alabama Lakes, Rivers and Water Resources, accessed July 13, 2021.
6 Alabama Power, Our Lakes and Dams, accessed July 13, 2021.
7 Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA in Alabama, accessed July 13, 2021.
8 Hartsell, Andrew, "Alabama's Forests, 2015," U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, p. ix.
9 Alabama Forestry Commission, Alabama Forest Facts, accessed July 13, 2021.
10 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C14, Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2019.
11 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C11, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2019.
12 Alabama Department of Commerce, Made in Alabama, Industries, Targeted Business Sectors, accessed July 13, 2021.
13 Alabama Department of Commerce, Made in Alabama, Automotive, accessed July 13, 2021.
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, 2019.
15 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C11, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2019.
16 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2019 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Alabama.
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 2021), Table 1.3.B.
19 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001-20.
20 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2021), Table 1.9.B.
21 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001-20.
22 U.S. EIA, Nuclear Reactor, State, and Net Capacity (September 2020).
23 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001-20.
24 U.S. EIA, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860), Inventory of Retired Generators as of May 2021, Plant State: Alabama, Technology: Conventional Steam Coal.
25 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001-20.
26 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2021), Table 1.10.B.
27 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001-20.
28 U.S. EIA, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860), Inventory of Retired Generators as of May 2021, Plant State: Alabama, Technology: Conventional Hydroelectric.
AL.com, Hydroelectric Power Plants in Alabama, accessed July 14, 2021.
29 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2021), Table 1.15.B.
30 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001-20.
31 U.S. EIA, State Electricity Profiles, Alabama Electricity Profile 2019, Table 10, Supply and disposition of electricity, 1990 through 2019.
32 U.S. EIA, Alabama Profile Overview, Map, Layers/Legend: Electric Transmission Lines, accessed July 15, 2021.
33 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Retail sales of electricity (million kilowatthours), annual, Alabama, 2001-20.
34 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).
35 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C17, Electricity Retail Sales, Total and Residential, Total and per Capita, Ranked by State, 2019.
36 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2019 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Alabama.
37 Mining Artifacts, Alabama Mines, accessed July 15, 2021.
38 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2019 (October 5, 2020), Table 6, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Coal Rank, 2019; Table 15, Recoverable Coal Reserves at Producing Mines, Estimated Recoverable Reserves, and Demonstrated Reserve Base by Mining Method, 2019.
39 U.S. EIA, Energy Explained, Coal explained, Types of coal, Bituminous, accessed July 15, 2021.
40 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2019 (October 5, 2020), Table 2, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State, County, and Mine Type, 2019.
41 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2019 (October 5, 2020), Domestic and foreign distribution of U.S. coal by origin State, 2019.
42 U.S. EIA, Quarterly Coal Report, 4th Quarter 2020 (April 2021), Table 13, U.S. Coal Exports by Customs District; Table 20, Coal Imports by Customs District.
43 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2019 (October 5, 2020), Table 2, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State, County, and Mine Type, 2019.
44 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2019 (October 5, 2020), Domestic Distribution of U.S. coal by origin State, consumer, destination and method of transportation, Table OS-1, Alabama, 2019.
45 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2019 (October 5, 2020), Domestic Distribution of U.S. coal by destination State, consumer, destination and method of transportation, Table DS-1, Alabama, 2019.
46 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Proved Reserves, Reserves Changes, and Production, 2014-19.
47 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.
48 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Production, Annual Thousand Barrels, 2015-20.
49 U.S. EIA, Alabama Profile Overview, Map, Layers/Legend, Oil Wells: High-Level View, Tight Oil/Shale Gas Play, accessed July 15, 2021.
50 U.S. EIA, Alabama Field Production of Crude Oil (Thousand Barrels), Annual, 2020.
51 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table PT1, Primary Energy Production Estimates in Physical Units, Alabama, 1960-2019.
52 U.S. EIA, Refinery Capacity Report 2021 (June 25, 2021), Table 3, Capacity of Operable Petroleum Refineries by State as of January 1, 2021.
53 Shell, Mobile, AL, accessed July 16, 2021.
54 Goodway Refining, LLC, accessed July 16, 2021.
55 Hunt Refining Company, Refining Operations, Tuscaloosa Refinery, accessed July 16, 2021.
56 Colonial Pipeline Company, System Map, accessed July 16, 2021.
57 Kinder Morgan, Products (SE) Pipe Line Corporation, accessed July 16, 2021.
58 Kinder Morgan, Form 10-K, For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020, Products Pipeline, Southeast Refined Products, PPL Pipeline, p. 10.
59 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C2, Energy Consumption Estimates for Selected Energy Sources in Physical Units, 2019.
60 American Petroleum Institute, U.S. Gasoline Requirements, updated January 2018.
61 U.S. EIA, "Almost all U.S. gasoline is blended with 10% ethanol," Today in Energy (May 4, 2016).
62 U.S. EIA, U.S. Fuel Ethanol Plant Production Capacity (September 25, 2020), Detailed nameplate capacity of fuel ethanol plants by Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PAD District) are available in XLS file.
63 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F25, Fuel ethanol consumption estimates, 2019.
64 U.S. EIA, Monthly Biodiesel Production Report (February 26, 2021), Table 4, Biodiesel producers and production capacity by state, December 2020.
65 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F26, Biodiesel Consumption Estimates, 2019.
66 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2019 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Alabama.
67 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals, Annual, 2015-20.
68 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Reserves Summary as of Dec. 31, Wet NG, 2014-19.
69 U.S. EIA, Alabama Natural Gas Marketed Production, 1967-2019.
70 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Marketed Production, Annual, 2015-20.
71 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Marketed Production, Annual, 2015-20.
72 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals from Coalbed Wells, Annual-Million cubic feet, 2014-19.
73 Geological Survey of Alabama, Water Management Strategies for Improved Coalbed Methane Production in the Black Warrior Basin (January 30, 2014), p. 6-9.
74 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Marketed Production, Annual, 2015-20.
75 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Alabama, Annual, 2015-20.
76 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Alabama, Annual, 2014-19.
77 U.S. EIA, Alabama Natural Gas Deliveries to Electric Power Customers, 1997-2020.
78 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Alabama, Annual, 2015-20.
79 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2019 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Alabama.
80 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Alabama, Annual, 2015-20.
81 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001-20.
82 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2021), Table 1.15.B.
83 U.S. EIA, Monthly Densified Biomass Fuel Report (July 21, 2021), Table 1, Densified biomass fuel manufacturing facilities in the United States by state, region, and capacity, April 2021.
84 Golden Peanut Co.—Headland, Biomass Magazine, accessed July 19, 2021.
85 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001-20.
86 National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Global Horizontal Solar Irradiance, accessed July 19, 2021.
87 Smith, Tom, "River Bend Solar Energy Center operational, selling solar power," Times Daily (November 20, 2016).
88 Gattis, Paul, "Alabama's largest solar farm to power Facebook in Huntsville," AL.com (November 2, 2018).
89 U.S. EIA, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860), Inventory of Operating Generators as of May 2021, Plant State: Alabama, Technology: Solar Photovoltaic; Inventory of Planned Generators as of May 2021, Plant State: Alabama, Technology: Solar Photovoltaic.
90 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001-20.
91 Solar Energy Industries Association, Alabama Solar, accessed July 19, 2021.
92 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Wind Energy in Alabama, Maps & Data, accessed July 19, 2021.
93 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001-20.
94 Regulations.gov, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, "Request for Interest: Commercial Leasing for Wind Power Development on the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf," (June 11, 2021).
95 Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Federal Offshore Lands, accessed August 10, 2021.
96 National Council of State Legislatures, State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, updated April 7, 2021.
97 Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Alabama Energy and Residential Codes, accessed July 19, 2021.
98 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Alabama Energy Code, updated May 29, 2020.
99 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Energy Standards for State Agencies, updated May 9, 2016.