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Arkansas   Arkansas Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

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

Last Updated: February 15, 2018

Overview

Arkansas has a diverse geography with natural resources that range from abundant natural gas, coal, and hydro to the rare gems found in the Crater of the Diamonds State Park, home to the only active diamond mine in the United States.1 The mine is represented by the large diamond in the center of the Arkansas state flag.2 The Mississippi River flows along the state's eastern border, the northern edge of the Gulf Coastal Plain occupies southern Arkansas, and the rugged highlands cover the state's north and west.3 The fertile Arkansas River Valley separates the Ouachita Mountains from the Ozark Plateau in western Arkansas. Most of the state's natural gas production is from the Arkoma Basin, which underlies the Arkansas River Valley. Coal resources also have been found in the Arkansas River Valley near the state's western border.4,5,6 To the south, the lowlands of the Gulf Coastal Plain contain a historically significant crude oil-producing area.7

Forests cover more than half of Arkansas and provide significant biomass resource potential.

Rivers that flow generally east and south from the highland regions toward the Mississippi River provide Arkansas with considerable hydroelectric resources.8 The Mississippi River Valley and the upper reaches of its delta occupy the eastern third of Arkansas.9 The Mississippi River Alluvial Plain has rich soils that, along with the state's hot, humid summers and mild, slightly drier winters, provide excellent conditions for agriculture.10,11 Agricultural wastes and the forests that cover more than half of the state supply Arkansas with significant biomass resource potential.12,13

Arkansas produces more total energy than it consumes, primarily because of its abundant natural gas resources, but the state's per capita total energy consumption is in the top one-third of all of the states in the nation.14,15 The industrial sector, which includes agriculture, consumes the most energy in Arkansas.16 Rice and poultry are two of the state's most important agricultural products, and food production is the largest source of revenue in the manufacturing sector.17 Several energy-intensive industries are major contributors to Arkansas' gross domestic product and overall energy use. They include natural gas and crude oil extraction; the forest products industry, encompassing everything from harvesting timber to making wood and paper products; and the manufacture of fabricated metal products, primary metals, chemicals, petroleum products, and plastics.18

Arkansas has a relatively mild climate, but changes in terrain and increases in elevation from the coastal plain to the state's northern highlands can cause weather extremes.19 Per capita energy use by the residential sector is higher in Arkansas than in two-thirds of the states.20 Almost 90% of households heat with electricity or natural gas, and more than 1 in 10 use propane or wood for heating.21

Petroleum

Arkansas led the nation’s crude oil production in the 1920s with the discovery of the Smackover oil field.

Arkansas' proved crude oil reserves are minor, accounting for less than 0.2% of the U.S. total.22 The state's oil production is low, also providing less than 0.2% of U.S. total output.23 Arkansas once played a bigger role in the U.S. oil sector, leading the nation's crude oil production in the 1920s after the discovery in the southern part of the state of the giant Smackover field, which has produced more than 600 million barrels of oil.24 Many of the wells in the state's fields are now stripper wells that produce less than 10 barrels of crude oil per day.25 Crude oil production continues to be concentrated along the southern border of Arkansas.26

Arkansas has two oil refineries that have a combined operating capacity of more than 90,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The smaller refinery, in Smackover, Arkansas, processes about 7,500 barrels per calendar day, and produces lubricants and process oils that are marketed to the tire, electrical, asphalt, and roofing industries.27 The larger El Dorado Refinery can process about 83,000 barrels of sour crude oil per day28 into ultra-low sulfur gasoline, diesel fuels, propane, solvents, and asphalt products.29 To offset declines in production from local Arkansas producers and to take advantage of increased refinery capacity, other domestic and foreign crude oils are also processed at the El Dorado Refinery.30 Two major interstate crude oil pipelines and three petroleum product pipelines cross Arkansas.31

The transportation sector accounts for about four-fifths of the petroleum consumed in Arkansas. The industrial sector is a distant second and is responsible for less than one-fifth of the petroleum consumption in the state. The residential sector and the commercial sector use most of the remaining petroleum consumed.32 Arkansas allows the statewide use of conventional motor gasoline, and the state does not have any ethanol refineries.33,34

Natural gas

Arkansas is one of the top 10 natural gas-producing states.

Arkansas holds almost 3% of the nation's natural gas reserves and is one of the top 10 natural gas-producing states.35,36 Most of the state's production is dry natural gas from the Arkoma Basin in west-central Arkansas, although there are several wells in the southern part of the state. Most of the natural gas produced in southern Arkansas is wet natural gas, containing some heavier hydrocarbons.37 Coalbed methane, developed in 2001, is also produced in the state.38 Arkansas is not a major producer of coalbed methane, producing around 1 billion cubic feet per year, about 0.1% of U.S. total output.39

Gross withdrawals of natural gas in Arkansas increased dramatically beginning in 2008,40 mainly from horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Fayetteville Shale, which is the current focus of shale gas exploration in Arkansas and accounts for most of the state's production.41,42 However, because of a decline in drilling activity driven by lower natural gas prices, natural gas production in Arkansas has decreased by almost 30% since peaking in 2012.43,44 Economically recoverable natural gas reserves in the state have fallen by a much larger amount, declining by almost half by the beginning of 2016 from their peak level in 2011.45

Arkansas produces almost three times as much natural gas as its residents consume.46,47 The state has no natural gas market centers, and only two natural gas storage fields.48 More than a dozen natural gas pipelines, mostly from Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas, pass through Arkansas on the way to markets in the Midwest and Northeast.49,50 Large volumes of natural gas flow into the state and even larger volumes move out, mostly through Mississippi and Missouri on their way east and north.51

About one-half of the natural gas delivered to consumers in Arkansas is used by the electric power sector, and almost one-third is consumed by the industrial sector, which sees an increase in natural gas use in the fall when gas is used to dry the harvested rice crop.52 Consumption for electric power generation has risen sharply in the past decade. The commercial sector uses more natural gas than the residential sector,53 where 4 in 10 Arkansas households use natural gas as their primary source for home heating.54

Coal

Coal was the state's most valuable mineral resource from its first commercial production in the mid-19th century, but its importance diminished with the discovery of oil in Arkansas in the 1920s. There are only three small coal mines in state today, located in the Arkansas River Valley near the state's western border. Coal produced from the state's active mines is bituminous.55,56 The Arkansas mines supply less than 1% of the state's coal needs, and Arkansas relies on coal from other states. Almost all the coal consumed in the state is used by the electric power sector.57,58 Coal brought into Arkansas for electricity generation comes by rail from Wyoming. Industrial facilities in Arkansas obtain a minor amount of coal from Oklahoma, Illinois, and Colorado by rail.59 A small amount of Arkansas coal is trucked out of state and sent to power plants in neighboring Oklahoma.60

Electricity

Coal is the primary fuel used for electricity generation in Arkansas.

Coal is the primary fuel used for generating electricity in Arkansas and accounts for about two-fifths of the state's net generation.61 The state's two-reactor nuclear generating station provides about one-fifth of the state's net generation.62,63 Although 5 of the 10 largest power plants by capacity in Arkansas use coal, the largest power plant in the state is natural gas-fired.64 Record high natural gas volumes were used for electricity generation in 2016, when natural gas fueled almost one-third of the state's net generation.65 About 60% of the natural gas-fueled generation in Arkansas is provided by independent power producers.66 Almost all the rest of the state's net electricity generation is from hydroelectric power and biomass.67 The industrial sector accounts for almost all the state's biomass-fueled electricity generation.68

Arkansas ranks among the five states with the lowest average price of electricity to customers. Retail sales of electricity to the residential sector are greater than sales to the industrial sector or to the commercial sector.69 Almost half of the households in the state use electricity as their primary energy source for home heating.70

Renewable energy

Hydroelectric, biomass-fueled facilities, and other renewables provide nearly 10% of Arkansas’ net electricity generation.

Overall, renewable resources provide almost one-tenth of the state's net electricity generation.71 Hydroelectric power is the most commonly used renewable resource in Arkansas, providing more than two-thirds of the state's renewable power generation. Almost all the hydroelectric generation is supplied by electric utilities.72 Biomass supplies nearly all the nonhydroelectric renewable electricity generation in the state, almost all from burning wood and wood-derived fuels.73 Solid biomass residues, including crop residues and methane from livestock, are other potential sources.74,75 Arkansas has a small, but increasing, amount of installed solar generating capacity, which accounts for almost 1% of the state's electricity generation.76 The state's largest solar project, a 12-megawatt solar farm covering 100 acres in the Highland Industrial Park, began operating in 2016.77 Arkansas' largest municipal solar project, located in the city of Clarksville, came online in January 2018 with a 2,000 solar panel array spread over 42 acres, capable of generating 6.5 megawatts of electricity.78 Arkansas does not generate electricity from utility-scale wind energy projects. However, a number of manufacturers of components used by wind generators are located in the state.79

There are four wood pellet plants in Arkansas with a combined production capacity of more 625,000 metric tons per year, and more wood pellet facilities are in development.80 The state also has three facilities that produce biodiesel from animal fats and vegetable oils.81

Arkansas does not have a renewable portfolio standard.82 In 2009, the Arkansas Alternative Energy Commission was created to oversee the creation or expansion of various forms of alternative energy sources in the state.83 In addition, Arkansas has adopted several policies to encourage energy efficiency. Also in 2009, the Sustainable Energy-Efficient Buildings Program was enacted, which directed the Arkansas Energy Office to develop a plan to reduce energy use in all major existing state-owned facilities by 30% from 2008 levels by 2017.84 In December 2010, the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) announced a Sustainable Energy Resource Action Plan that required implementation of energy efficiency measures by the state's investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities. In 2015, the APSC extended the program and increased the energy savings targets to 1% of 2015 sales in 2019 for electric utilities and 0.5% of 2015 sales in 2019 for gas utilities.85,86

Endnotes

1 Crater of Diamonds State Park, History of the Crater of the Diamonds State Park, accessed January 11, 2018.
2 State Symbols USA, Flag of Arkansas, accessed January 11, 2018.
3 U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, A Tapestry of Time and Terrain: The Union of Two Maps, Geology and Topography, accessed January 10, 2018.
4 Arkansas Geological Survey, Physiographic Provinces of Arkansas, accessed January 10, 2018.
5 Arkansas Geological Survey, Natural Gas, accessed January 10, 2018.
6 Arkansas Geological Survey, Coal, accessed January 10, 2018.
7 Arkansas Geological Survey, Oil, History of Discovery and Exploration, accessed January 10, 2018.
8 Reynolds, Jerry, Hydroelectricity, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, updated March 15, 2016.
9 Arkansas Geological Survey, Physiographic Provinces of Arkansas, accessed January 10, 2018.
10 Foti, Thomas, Geography and Geology, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, updated July 20, 2016.
11 Buckner, Ed, Climate and Weather, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, updated May 11, 2016.
12 Arkansas Forestry Commission, Arkansas Forest Health Highlights for 2016, accessed January 22, 2018.
13 Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Energy Office, 2010 Arkansas Energy Data Profile, Biomass, p. 54.
14 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), State Energy Production Estimates 1960 Through 2015, Table P3, Energy Production and Consumption Estimates in Trillion Btu, 2015.
15 U.S. EIA, State Energy Production Estimates 1960 Through 2015, Table P2, Energy Production Estimates in Trillion Btu, 2015.
16 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 Through 2015, Arkansas Tables CT4-CT7.
17 Arkansas, The Natural State, Kids, Arkansas Agriculture and Manufacturing Facts for Kids, accessed January 10, 2018.
18 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Interactive Data, Regional Data, GDP and Personal Income, Annual Gross Domestic Product by State, Current Dollars, All Industries, Arkansas, 2015.
19 Buckner, Ed, Climate and Weather, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, updated May 11, 2016.
20 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 Through 2015, Table C13, Energy Consumption per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2015.
21 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Arkansas, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
22 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Proved Reserves, Reserves Changes, and Production, Proved Reserves as of 12/31, accessed January 11, 2018.
23 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Production, Annual Thousand Barrels per Day, 2016.
24 Lambert, Don, Smackover (Union County), The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, updated March 24, 2017.
25 Arkansas Geological Survey, Oil, History of Discovery and Exploration, accessed January 10, 2018.
26 U.S. EIA, Arkansas, Profile Overview, Map, Layers/Legend, Oil and Gas Wells, accessed January 11, 2018.
27 Cross Oil Refining and Marketing, History, accessed January 11, 2018.
28 U.S. EIA, Refinery Capacity Report 2017, Table 3, Capacity of Operable Petroleum Refineries by State as of January 1, 2017.
29 Lion Oil Company, About, accessed January 11, 2018.
30 Lion Oil Company, History, accessed January 11, 2018.
31 Pipeline 101, Where Are Liquids Pipelines Located?, Region 4, accessed January 21, 2018.
32 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F15, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2015.
33 Ethanol Producer Magazine, U.S. Ethanol Plants, All Platforms, All Plants, September 23, 2017.
34 Gardner, K. W., U.S. Gasoline Requirements, American Petroleum Institute (June 2015).
35 U.S. EIA, U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Proved Reserves, Year-end 2015(December 15, 2016), Table 10, Total natural gas proved reserves, reserves changes, and production, wet after lease separation, 2015 (December 15, 2016).
36 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Annual, 2016, accessed January 11, 2018.
37 Arkansas Geological Survey, Natural Gas, accessed January 11, 2018.
38 Arkansas Geological Survey, Natural Gas, Coalbed Natural Gas Methane, accessed January 11, 2018.
39 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals from Coalbed Wells, Annual, 2016, accessed January 11, 2018.
40 U.S. EIA, Arkansas Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals, 1967-2016, accessed January 11, 2018.
41 U.S. EIA, Arkansas Shale Production, accessed January 11, 2018.
42 Arkansas Geological Survey, Natural Gas, Fayetteville Shale Gas, accessed January 11, 2018.
43 Brown, Wesley, "Arkansas drilling permits see uptick in July, natural gas prices move closer to $3," Talk Business and Politics (August 4, 2016).
44 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Annual 2011-16, accessed January 17, 2018.
45 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Reserves Summary as of December 31, 2010-15, Dry Natural Gas and Wet Natural Gas, accessed January 17, 2018.
46 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Annual, 2016, accessed January 17, 2018.
47 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Arkansas, Annual, 2016, accessed January 17, 2018.
48 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Total Number of Existing Fields, accessed January 17, 2018.
49 Pipeline 101, Natural Gas Pipelines Map, Region 4-Mississippi Delta, accessed January 22, 2018.
50 U.S. EIA, Arkansas Profile Overview, Map, Natural Gas Inter/Intrastate Pipeline and Natural Gas Market Hub Layers, accessed January 17, 2018.
51 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Arkansas, accessed January 17, 2018.
52 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Arkansas, Annual 2011-16, accessed January 17, 2018.
53 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Arkansas, Annual 2011-16, accessed January 17, 2018.
54 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Arkansas, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
55 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2016 (November 2017), Table 6, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Coal Rank, 2016.
56 Arkansas Geological Survey, Coal, accessed January 18, 2018.
57 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2016 (November 2017), Table 6, Coal production and number of mines by state and coal rank, 2016.
58 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2016 (November 2017), Table 26, U.S. Coal Consumption by End Use Sector, Census Division, and State, 2016 and 2015.
59 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2016 (November 2017), By Coal Destination State, Arkansas, Table DS-4, Domestic Coal Distribution, by Destination State, 2016.
60 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2016 (November 2017) By Coal Origin State, Arkansas, Table OS-4. Domestic Coal Distribution, by Origin State, 2016.
61 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.4.B.
62 U.S. EIA, Nuclear Reactor, State, and Net Capacity (November 2017).
63 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.9.B.
64 U.S. EIA, Arkansas Electricity Profile 2015, Table 2, Ten Largest Plants by Generating Capacity, 2015.
65 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Arkansas, Volumes Delivered to Consumers, Electric Power, 2011-16.
66 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.7.B.
67 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.10.B, 1.15.B.
68 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 1.15.B.
69 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 5.4.B, 5.6.B.
70 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Arkansas, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
71 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.10.B, 1.11.B, 1.15.B.
72 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.10.B, 1.11.B, 1.15.B.
73 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.11.B, 1.15.B.
74 Arkansas Alternative Energy Commission, About the Energy Commission, accessed January 19, 2018.
75 U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2016 State Agricultural Overview, Arkansas, accessed January 19, 2018.
76 Solar Energy Industries Association, State Solar Policy, Arkansas Solar, accessed January 19, 2018.
77 Aerojet Rocketdyne, "Largest Solar Energy Field in Arkansas is Operating," Press Release (March 28, 2016).
78 Kauffman, Jacob, "Arkansas Solar Braces for Trump Tariff, As Largest City Solar Projects Opens," KUAR (January 23, 2018).
79 American Wind Energy Association, Arkansas Wind Energy, accessed January 19, 2018.
80 Biomass Magazine, Pellet Plants (May 17, 2017).
81 Biodiesel Magazine, USA Plants, existing (December 13, 2017).
82 Durkay, Jocelyn, "State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals," National Conference of State Legislatures (December 1, 2017).
83 Arkansas Alternative Energy Commission, Home, accessed January 19, 2018.
84 American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, State and Local Policy Database, Arkansas, updated July 2017.
85 Arkansas Public Service Commission, APSC Sustainable Energy Resources (SER) Action Guide, Docket No. 08-144-U (Little Rock, AR, December 2010).
86 North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Arkansas Energy Efficiency Targets, accessed January 19, 2018.