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Arkansas   Arkansas Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

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(overview, data, & analysis)

Last Updated: April 15, 2021

Overview

Arkansas has a diverse geography with natural resources that range from abundant natural gas, rivers, and forests 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 at 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 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 are found in the valley near the state's western border, and coal resources also cover most of the eastern half of the state.4,5,6,7 To the south, the lowlands of the Gulf Coastal Plain contain the state's crude oil-producing area.8,9

Rivers that flow generally east and south from the highland regions toward the Mississippi River provide Arkansas with considerable hydropower resources.10 The Mississippi River Valley and the upper reaches of its delta occupy the eastern third of Arkansas.11 This area, part of 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.12,13 Agricultural wastes and the forests that cover about half of the state supply Arkansas with significant biomass resources.14,15

Arkansas uses about 25% more energy than the state produces.

Arkansas consumes about 25% more energy than it produces, and its per capita energy consumption is usually in the top one-third of the states.16,17 The industrial sector, which includes agriculture, consumes the most energy of any end-use sector in Arkansas, accounting for almost two-fifths of the state total.18 Poultry, soybeans, and rice are the state's top three agricultural products in terms of cash farm receipts.19,20 Several energy-intensive industries also are major contributors to Arkansas' gross domestic product (GDP). They include chemical manufacturing; utilities; natural gas and crude oil extraction and mining; farming; and food and beverage processing.21

The transportation sector accounts for about one-fourth of the state's energy consumption, followed by the residential sector at slightly more than one-fifth and the commercial sector at one-sixth.22 About half of Arkansas households heat with electricity, almost two-fifths use natural gas, and most of the remaining homes use propane or wood.23

Natural gas

Arkansas accounts for about 1% of total U.S. marketed natural gas production.

Arkansas has about 1% of the nation's proved natural gas reserves, and in 2019 the state accounted for 1% of total U.S. marketed gas production.24,25 Most of the state's natural gas production comes from the Arkoma Basin in west-central Arkansas, although there are also gas wells in the southern part of the state. Most of the natural gas produced in southern Arkansas is associated with oil production and contains some heavier hydrocarbons.26,27 Coalbed methane, which is contained in coal seams, is also produced in the state.28 However, Arkansas is not a major producer of coalbed methane, with the state's output accounting for 0.1% of total U.S. coalbed methane production.29

Marketed natural gas production in Arkansas increased significantly beginning in 2008. Output more than doubled by 2012, mainly from horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Fayetteville Shale, which is the focus of shale gas exploration in Arkansas and accounts for most of the state's production.30,31,32 However, because of a decline in drilling activity driven, in part, by lower natural gas prices, natural gas production in Arkansas decreased in 2020 to less than half its 2012 peak.33,34

Arkansas produces more natural gas than it consumes.35,36 More than a dozen natural gas pipelines, mostly from Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas, pass through Arkansas on the way to markets in the Midwest and Northeast.37,38 Large volumes of natural gas flow into the state and even larger volumes move out, with supplies mostly going through Mississippi, Louisiana, and Missouri.39 The state has two natural gas storage fields that together can hold nearly 22 billion cubic feet of gas.40,41

The electric power sector consumes about two-fifths of the natural gas used in Arkansas, as generation from natural gas-fired power plants in the state has risen sharply in the past decade.42,43 The industrial sector, which includes agriculture, consumes about one-third of the state's natural gas and sees increased natural gas use during the fall months to dry the harvested rice crop.44 The commercial sector accounts for about one-sixth of the state's total gas use, and the residential sector, where about 4 in 10 Arkansas households use natural gas as their primary source for home heating, consumes about one-tenth.45,46

Petroleum

Arkansas led the nation’s crude oil production in the mid-1920s with its Smackover oil field.

Arkansas' proved crude oil reserves are small, accounting for about 0.1% of the U.S. total, and the state also produces about 0.1% of the nation's total crude oil output.47,48 Arkansas once played a larger role in the U.S. oil sector, leading the nation's crude oil production in the mid-1920s with its large Smackover field in the southern part of the state.49 Smackover remains the state's biggest oil producing-field.50 Many oil wells in the state are now stripper wells that produce less than 10 barrels of crude oil per day.51 Arkansas' crude oil production continues to be concentrated along the state's southern border.52

Arkansas has two oil refineries that have a combined processing capacity of almost 91,000 barrels of crude oil per calendar day. The smaller refinery in Smackover 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. The larger refinery in El Dorado can process about 83,000 barrels of crude oil per calendar day into gasoline, diesel fuel, propane, solvents, and asphalt products.53,54,55 The El Dorado refinery processes crude oil produced in Arkansas and from other states and countries.56

The transportation sector accounts for about four-fifths of the petroleum consumed in Arkansas. The industrial sector is second and is responsible for about one-seventh of the petroleum consumption in the state. The commercial and residential sectors account for most of the remaining petroleum use.57 Although almost all U.S. gasoline contains at least 10% ethanol, Arkansas allows statewide use of conventional motor gasoline without ethanol.58,59 Arkansas does not have any ethanol production plants, but the state does have three biodiesel manufacturing plants with a combined production capacity of 115 million gallons per year, the fifth highest of any state.60,61

Electricity

In 2020, natural gas generated more electricity in Arkansas than coal for the first time.

In 2020, natural gas exceeded coal for the first time as the leading fuel used to generate electricity in Arkansas and accounted for almost one-third of the state's net generation.62 Four of the 10 largest power plants in Arkansas are natural gas-fired, including the biggest power plant in the state, the 2,000-megawatt Union Power Station. While coal fueled 5 of Arkansas' 10 largest power plants, coal accounted for about three-tenths of the state's net generation in 2020, down from more than half of generation in 2014.63,64 The state has one nuclear power plant—with two reactors—that provided nearly three-tenths of net generation in 2020. The nuclear power plant is located on Lake Dardanelle about 50 miles northwest of Little Rock. Almost all the rest of the state's electricity net generation came from hydroelectric power and biomass-fueled generating facilities.65,66,67

Arkansas ranks among the top 10 states in both total electricity sales per capita and residential electricity sales per capita.68 The residential sector accounts for the largest share of electricity use in Arkansas, with two-fifths of the state's total power sales. Half of households in the state use electricity as their primary energy source for home heating. The industrial sector closely follows the residential with more than one-third of the state's electricity consumption, and the commercial sector accounts for one-fourth of state electricity use.69,70 Arkansas ranks among the five states with the lowest average retail electricity prices.71

Renewable energy

Hydropower, biomass, and other renewables provide about 10% of Arkansas’ electricity net generation.

Renewable energy sources provided about one-tenth of the electricity generated in Arkansas in 2020. Conventional hydroelectric power accounted for three-fourths of the state's renewable generation. The state has 19 utility-scale (1 megawatt or larger) conventional hydroelectric power generating facilities and one hydroelectric pumped storage plant.72,73

Biomass supplied about one-fifth of Arkansas' in-state renewable electricity in 2020, almost all of it from wood and wood-derived fuels.74 Solid biomass residues, including crop residues and methane from livestock, are other potential resources for electricity generation in the state.75,76 Arkansas' biomass resources also provide feedstock for the state's two wood pellet manufacturing plants, which have a combined production capacity of almost 700,000 tons per year.77

Arkansas has a small but increasing amount of solar power, which accounted for about 6% of the state's renewable electricity generation in 2020 and was 60 times greater than in 2015.78,79 Arkansas' largest solar project, a 100-megawatt solar farm with 350,000 solar panels spread over 825 acres, came online in September 2020 in Chicot County, located in the southeastern part of the state.80 Another 100-megawatt solar farm, located northeast of Little Rock, is scheduled to come online during the fourth quarter of 2021.81 Arkansas does not generate any electricity from utility-scale wind power facilities, although it has moderate wind energy resource potential in the Ozark Mountains in the northwest corner of the state.82,83

Arkansas does not have a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requiring that a certain amount of the state's electricity be generated from renewable energy sources.84 However, the state does have net metering, allowing households and businesses with small-scale, customer-sited solar panels, wind turbines, or other renewable power generating installations to receive credits from utilities for putting excess electricity on the grid. There were more than 2,300 net metering systems in the state at the end of 2019.85,86 In 2010, the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) implemented an energy efficiency resource standard that required the state's investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities to undertake energy efficiency measures. In 2015 and again in 2018, the APSC set new targets for continued reductions in electricity and natural gas use.87,88 The energy savings targets for program years 2020-22 called for a 1.2% reduction in utility sales of electricity from 2018 levels and a 0.5% reduction in utility sales of natural gas.89

Coal

Coal was Arkansas' most valuable mineral resource from its first commercial production in the mid-19th century, but its importance diminished with the discovery of oil in the state in the 1920s and the decline in electricity generation by coal-fired power plants in recent years.90,91 The state's last coal production occurred in 2017 at three small mines, all located in the Arkansas River Valley near the state's western border.92,93 Almost all the coal consumed in Arkansas is used by the electric power sector and arrives by rail from Wyoming. Other industrial facilities in the state also receive small amounts of coal by rail from Oklahoma, Illinois, and Colorado.94,95

Endnotes

1 Crater of Diamonds State Park, History of the Crater of the Diamonds State Park, accessed March 3, 2021.
2 State Symbols USA, Flag of Arkansas, accessed March 3, 2021.
3 World Atlas, Arkansas, Arkansas Geography, accessed March 3, 2021.
4 Foti, Thomas, Arkansas Valley, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, updated February 6, 2019.
5 Arkansas Geological Survey, General Information Regarding Natural Gas in Arkansas, accessed March 3, 2021.
6 Arkansas Geological Survey, General Information Regarding Coal in Arkansas, accessed March 3, 2021.
7 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), State Profile and Energy Estimates, Arkansas, Map, Layers/Legend: Fossil Resources, Coal Field, Tight Oil/Shale Gas Play, accessed March 3, 2021.
8 Arkansas Geological Survey, General Information Regarding Crude Oil in Arkansas, History of Discovery and Exploration, accessed March 3, 2021.
9 U.S. EIA, State Profile and Energy Estimates, Arkansas, Map, Layers/Legend: Oil Wells: High-Level View, accessed March 3, 2021.
10 Reynolds, Jerry, Hydroelectricity, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, updated March 15, 2016.
11 Stroud, Hubert, Mississippi Alluvial Plain, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, updated October 30, 2018.
12 Foti, Thomas, Geography and Geology, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, updated October 9, 2020.
13 Buckner, Ed, Climate and Weather, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, updated May 11, 2016.
14 Arkansas Forestry Commission, Arkansas Forest Health Highlights for 2020, p. 1.
15 National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Geospatial Data Science, Biomass Resource Data, Tools, and Maps, U.S. Biomass Resource Maps, accessed March 3, 2021.
16 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table P3, Total Primary Energy Production and Total Energy Consumption Estimates in Trillion Btu, 2018.
17 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C14, Total Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2018.
18 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C11, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2018.
19 U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2020 State Agricultural Overview, Arkansas.
20 University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, Research and Extension, Pocket Facts 2020 Arkansas Agriculture Profile, p. 5.
21 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Interactive Data, Regional Data, GDP and Personal Income, Annual Gross Domestic Product by State, GDP in Current Dollars, NAICS, Arkansas, All Statistics in Table, 2019.
22 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C11, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2018.
23 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2019 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Arkansas.
24 U.S. EIA, U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Proved Reserves, Year-end 2019 (January 11, 2021), Table 10, Proved reserves, reserves changes, and production of natural gas, wet after lease separation, 2019.
25 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Marketed Production, Annual, 2019.
26 Arkansas Geological Survey, General Information Regarding Natural Gas in Arkansas, Conventional Gas, accessed March 11, 2021.
27 U.S. EIA, Arkansas, Profile Overview, Map, Layers/Legend: Oil and Gas Wells, accessed March 17, 2021.
28 Arkansas Geological Survey, General Information Regarding Natural Gas in Arkansas, Unconventional Gas, Coalbed Natural Gas Methane, accessed March 11, 2021.
29 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals from Coalbed Wells, Annual, 2019.
30 U.S. EIA, Arkansas Natural Gas Marketed Production, Annual, 1967-2020.
31 U.S. EIA, Arkansas Shale Production, 2007-19.
32 Arkansas Geological Survey, General Information Regarding Natural Gas in Arkansas, Fayetteville Shale Gas, accessed March 11, 2021.
33 Bree, Daniel, "Fayetteville Shale Assets Sold Off, Fracking Still Put On Hold," Arkansas Public Media (September 20, 2018).
34 U.S. EIA, Arkansas Natural Gas Marketed Production, Annual, 1967-2020.
35 U.S. EIA, Arkansas Natural Gas Marketed Production, Annual, 1967-2020.
36 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Arkansas, Annual, 2020.
37 American Petroleum Institute, Where are the Pipelines? Natural Gas Pipelines, accessed March 17, 2021.
38 U.S. EIA, Arkansas Profile Overview, Map, Layers/Legend: Pipelines and Transmission, Natural Gas Inter/Intrastate Pipeline and Natural Gas Market Hub Layers, accessed March 11, 2021.
39 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Arkansas, 2019.
40 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Total Number of Existing Fields, 2019.
41 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Total Storage Capacity, 2019.
42 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Arkansas, Annual 2010-20.
43 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, thousand megawatthours, Arkansas, Annual 2001-20.
44 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Arkansas, Annual 2015-20.
45 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2019 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Arkansas.
46 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Arkansas, Annual 2015-20.
47 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Proved Reserves, Reserves Changes, and Production, Proved Reserves as of 12/31, 2019.
48 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Production, Annual-Thousand Barrels per Day, 2020.
49 Lambert, Don, Smackover (Union County), The Encyclopedia of Arkansas, updated December 22, 2020.
50 Arkansas Oil & Gas Commission, South Arkansas Field Data, Smackover, 2018.
51 Arkansas Geological Survey, General Information Regarding Crude Oil in Arkansas, History of Discovery and Exploration, accessed March 12, 2021.
52 U.S. EIA, Arkansas, Profile Overview, Map, Layers/Legend: Oil and Gas Wells, accessed March 12, 2021.
53 U.S. EIA, Refinery Capacity Report 2020 (June 22, 2020), Table 3, Capacity of Operable Petroleum Refineries by State as of January 1, 2020.
54 Lion Oil, About, accessed March 12, 2021.
55 Cross Oil Refining and Marketing, About, accessed March 12, 2021.
56 Lion Oil, History, accessed March 12, 2021.
57 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F15, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2018.
58 American Petroleum Institute, U.S. Gasoline Requirements, January 2018.
59 U.S. EIA, "Almost all U.S. gasoline is blended with 10% ethanol," Today in Energy (May 4, 2016).
60 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.
61 U.S. EIA, Monthly Biodiesel Production Report (February 26, 2021), Table 4, Biodiesel producers and production capacity by state, December 2020.
62 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, thousand megawatthours, Arkansas, Annual 2014-20.
63 U.S. EIA, Arkansas Electricity Profile 2019, Table 2A, Ten Largest Plants by Capacity, 2019.
64 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, thousand megawatthours, Arkansas, Annual 2017-20.
65 U.S. EIA, Nuclear Reactor, State, and Net Capacity (December 2019).
66 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, thousand megawatthours, Arkansas, Annual 2017-20.
67 Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Arkansas Nuclear One, updated December 8, 2020.
68 U.S. EIA, Table C17, Electricity Retail Sales, Total and Residential, Total and per Capita, Ranked by State, 2018.
69 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Retail sales of electricity (million kilowatthours), Arkansas, 2017-20.
70 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2019 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Arkansas.
71 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2021), Table 5.6.B.
72 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, thousand megawatthours, Arkansas, Annual 2017-20.
73 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 December 2020, Technology: Conventional Hydroelectric and Hydroelectric Pumped Storage.
74 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, thousand megawatthours, Arkansas, Annual 2017-20.
75 University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, Research & Extension, Bioenergy Crops, accessed March 15, 2021.
76 U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2020 State Agricultural Overview, Arkansas, accessed March 15, 2021.
77 U.S. EIA, Monthly Densified Biomass Fuel Report (March 17, 2021), Table 1, Densified biomass fuel manufacturing facilities in the United States by state, region, and capacity, December 2020, Download.
78 Solar Energy Industries Association, State Solar Policy, Arkansas Solar, accessed March 15, 2021.
79 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, thousand megawatthours, Arkansas, Annual, 2017-20.
80 Kovaleski, Dave, "NextEra Energy to build largest solar facility in Arkansas," Daily Energy Insider (December 4, 2019).
81 U.S. EIA, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860), Inventory of Planned Generators as of December 2020, Technology: Solar Photovoltaic.
82 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, thousand megawatthours, Arkansas, Annual 2017-20.
83 U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WindExchange, Wind Energy in Arkansas, Maps & Data, accessed March 15, 2021.
84 National Conference of State Legislatures, State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, updated March 9, 2021.
85 North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Net Metering, updated November 30, 2018.
86 Della Rosa, Jeff, "Groups weigh in on net-metering rule changes, impact on solar," Talk Business & Politics (June 4, 2020).
87 Arkansas Public Service Commission, APSC Sustainable Energy Resources (SER) Action Guide, Docket No. 08-144-U (December 2010).
88 North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Arkansas Energy Efficiency Targets, updated August 18, 2016.
89 American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy, State and Local Policy Database, Energy Efficiency Resource Standards, Arkansas, updated July 2018.
90 Arkansas Geological Survey, General Information Regarding Coal in Arkansas, accessed March 12, 2021.
91 U.S. EIA, "Power sector consumed 30% less coal in first-half 2020 than in first-half 2019," Today in Energy (November 5, 2020).
92 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2019 (October 5, 2020), Table 1, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, 2019 and 2018.
93 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2018, Table 1, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, 2018 and 2017.
94 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2019 (October 5, 2020), Table 26, U.S. Coal Consumption by End Use Sector, Census Division, and State, 2019 and 2018.
95 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2019 (October 5, 2020), Domestic distribution of U.S. coal by destination state, Arkansas, Table DS-4, Domestic Coal Distribution, by Destination State, 2019.