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Utah   Utah Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

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



Last Updated: November 17, 2016

Overview

Utah is a state of contrasts, from flat salt desert to rugged canyons, and from mountains soaring above 13,000 feet in the northeast to the edge of the Mojave Desert 11,000 feet lower in the southwest. Deserts border the Wasatch Mountains, home to Olympic ski resorts. Temperatures vary greatly with season and altitude and have ranged from 117°F in the south in summer to 69°F below zero in the north in winter.1 About three-fourths of the population lives along the western base of the Wasatch Range, called the Wasatch Front, while the rest of the state is lightly populated.2,3 Utah was the third fastest-growing state by population from 2000 to 2010, and the fifth fastest-growing state from 2010 to 2015.4,5

Utah has both fossil and renewable energy resources and is a net energy supplier to neighboring states.

Utah produces crude oil, natural gas, and coal and has geothermal, solar, and wind resources.6 The state is a net energy supplier to the nation,7 and the energy industry is an important component of Utah's economy.8 Royalties from energy development on extensive state trust lands are the largest source of income for Utah's public school trust fund.9 Construction, manufacturing, financial services, information technology, and tourism are also major industries.10 Two-thirds of Utah's land is controlled by the federal government.11 Of the 50 states, Utah has the fourth highest number of producing mineral leases on federal lands.12

Energy consumption in Utah is led by the transportation sector and the industrial sector. Each sector uses about one-third of the energy consumed in Utah. The residential sector and the commercial sector each use about one-fifth.13 Energy consumption per capita and energy intensity, the energy consumed per dollar of gross domestic product, are both below the national median.14,15

Petroleum

Utah typically accounts for a little more than 1 in every 100 barrels of crude oil produced in the United States, and nearly 1 in 7 barrels produced in the Rocky Mountain states.16 Oil drilling operations and wells are concentrated in the Uinta Basin in northeastern Utah.17,18,19 Oil production nearly tripled from 2004 to 2014 but declined somewhat in 2015 and 2016 as crude oil prices fell.20,21 Nearly one-third of the state's 2015 crude oil production came from tribal lands.22

Utah crude oil production nearly tripled from 2004 to 2014.

In 2015, Utah crude oil production supplied a little over two-fifths of demand from the state's five refineries.23 Located in the Salt Lake City area, the refineries process crude oil brought in by pipeline from Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and Canada.24,25 The refineries, which produce motor gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, other fuel oils, and wax, represent more than one-fourth of the refining capacity in Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PADD) 4, which includes Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado.26,27 Refined petroleum products are delivered by pipeline into the Salt Lake City area from refineries in Wyoming and Montana. Other pipelines flow out of Salt Lake City refining centers to markets in Idaho, eastern Oregon, and eastern Washington.28,29,30,31,32,33 In December 2011, a refined products pipeline was opened between the Salt Lake City refineries and Las Vegas, providing Nevada with an alternative to California refineries for petroleum products supply.34,35

Utah's petroleum consumption per capita ranks among the lower half of the 50 states.36,37 More than four-fifths of petroleum products consumed in the state are used in the transportation sector.38 Utah requires the use of a motor gasoline blend with low volatility in the densely populated Salt Lake City and Provo/Orem areas. The rest of the state is allowed to use conventional motor gasoline.39,40,41 The ethanol needed for blending with motor gasoline is supplied by rail from the Midwest.42,43

Utah's proven crude oil reserves account for between 1% and 2% of the U.S. total.44 The Uinta Basin of eastern Utah overlays part of the Green River oil shale, a kerogen-rich formation that, by some estimates, could be the world's largest oil resource.45 Kerogen is a fossilized organic material, found in sedimentary rock, which can be heated to extract crude oil. Pilot oil shale projects have been undertaken in the area, but current extraction technology is water-intensive and uneconomic.46,47 Eastern Utah also hosts the largest U.S. resources of bitumen in tar sands, and commercial efforts to extract bitumen with new technology are under way.48,49,50,51,52

Natural gas

Utah's natural gas production, concentrated in the Uinta Basin, accounted for about 1% of U.S. output in 2015.53 Production rose from the middle of the last decade to peak in 2012,54,55 partly because of production associated with the increasing numbers of wells drilled for natural gas liquids and crude oil.56 Production of natural gas has decreased since 2012 in response to low market prices and reduced crude oil drilling.57 Coalbed methane—natural gas produced from coal seams—has provided as much as one-third of Utah's natural gas output but has been gradually declining from its 2002 peak. Coalbed methane now supplies less than one-tenth of Utah's total natural gas production.58,59 Utah has about 2% of U.S. proved natural gas reserves.60 The state has 3 of the 100 largest U.S. natural gas fields, ranked by proved reserves.61

Utah has the sixth largest number of public access CNG refueling stations in the nation.

Utah consumes a little more than half of the natural gas it produces.62 The industrial sector is Utah's largest consumer of natural gas.63 The residential sector is a close second, with six in seven households using natural gas as their primary heating fuel.64 Utah's state energy policy favors diversifying transportation fuels, including increased use of compressed natural gas (CNG).65,66 In 2016, Utah had the sixth largest number of public access CNG refueling stations in the nation.67

Utah is crossed by a major transportation corridor for shipping natural gas from the Opal Hub in Wyoming and the Piceance Basin in western Colorado to markets in Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho, and beyond.68,69 The Clay Basin facility, on the Utah-Wyoming border near Colorado, is one of the region's largest underground storage facilities.70 More storage capacity is being developed in a salt formation in western Utah to provide market storage services on the interstate pipelines that form Wyoming's Opal natural gas market hub.71,72

Coal

Utah typically accounts for less than 2% of U.S. coal production. Most active mines in Utah are underground operations in the central Uinta Basin.73 The only active surface mine is in the south near the Arizona border.74,75 More than seven-tenths of all coal mined in Utah is consumed in the state, primarily for electric power generation.76,77 About half of the coal burned in-state is delivered by truck to power plants and industrial users, and the other half is delivered by rail. One mine delivered coal to a generating station by a 2.4-mile-long conveyor belt, but the mine was shut down in 2015.78,79 Coal is transported to one generating plant by a dedicated electric rail line from a mine just across the border in Colorado.80 Most coal shipments to customers outside the state are by rail.81 Coal output has been declining and mines have been shutting down because demand from the electric power sector has decreased and some older coal mining areas have diminished economic reserves.82,83,84 California, which historically was Utah's largest coal customer, is in the process of eliminating coal use.85,86 Nevada was the next largest domestic consumer of Utah's coal, but Nevada also has decided to phase out coal use in electricity generation.87,88 Small amounts of Utah coal are shipped to more than a half dozen states for industrial uses.89,90 Some coal is exported through California ports.91,92 Utah is trying to increase coal exports to Asia, and the state has invested in a coal export facility in Oakland, California.93,94,95,96

Utah has joined seven other states in the Southwest Partnership on Carbon Sequestration, which is testing methods of storing carbon dioxide from coal-fired generating plant emissions in a variety of geologic formations.97,98 Utah research universities are exploring carbon-capture and related technologies that could enhance future coal use.99

Electricity

In 2015, three-fourths of Utah's net electricity generation came from coal, down from the share a decade ago, when coal routinely fueled more than nine-tenths of generation. Most electric generating capacity built recently in Utah has been fueled by natural gas, and one-fifth of 2015 net generation came from natural gas. The remainder of Utah's net electricity generation comes from hydroelectric, wind, geothermal, solar, and biomass energy.100,101,102 Utah ranks below two-thirds of the states in its per capita consumption of electricity.103,104 Electricity is the primary fuel for home heating in about one in eight Utah households.105 The commercial sector consumes the most electricity, but consumption is fairly evenly divided among that sector, the residential sector, and the industrial sector.106 Utah's retail electricity prices are among the lowest one-fifth of the states.107

Utah generates more electricity than it consumes, and the state is a net power supplier to other states.108,109,110 Utah's largest generating station, which was constructed to deliver the majority of its output to California,111 is operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.112 Some generating plant operators are switching from coal to natural gas to comply with California's emission laws for power brought into California.113,114 Utah's state energy plan anticipates that natural gas will be the fuel of choice for new electricity generation to replace coal and to back up intermittent renewables.115 High-capacity transmission is being built to bring conventional and renewable power from Wyoming and Utah to Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, and California, as well as to enhance reliability of delivery within Utah.116,117,118,119

Utah has no nuclear power plants, but it does have the only operating uranium ore mill in the United States.120,121 The mill processes ore from underground mines in the Four Corners area where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet.122 Utah experienced a boom in uranium mining during the Cold War, but mines were closed when U.S. demand dropped.123 The state is believed to have significant uranium resources left, and several mining permit requests are pending.124,125 The state's 10-year strategic energy plan keeps open the option of building nuclear electricity generation in the future.126,127

Renewable energy

Utah has a renewable portfolio goal that requires all distribution utilities to pursue renewable energy resources to the extent that it is cost-effective, with the goal of acquiring 20% of the electricity they sell from qualifying renewable sources by 2025.128,129,130,131 Energy sources eligible to meet the goal include both solar photovoltaic and solar thermal installations, methane from coal mines, and compressed air energy storage, if the compression power source is renewable energy. Eligible sources must have become operational after January 1, 1995.132,133

Utah requires that renewable energy sources be used only if they are cost-effective for state ratepayers.

In 2015, more than 4% of Utah's net electricity generation came from renewable sources.134 Hydroelectric generators typically supply between one-third and two-thirds of Utah's net renewable electricity generation, with the annual amount depending on water availability at 63 small facilities. The state's hydroelectric facilities are more than 60 years old on average; the oldest one dates from 1896.135,136,137 Power from post-1994 hydroelectric facilities in Utah can count toward the renewable portfolio goal, but there are limits on what can be counted from out-of-state hydroelectric facilities.138

In 2015, wind energy supplied about one-third of Utah's net renewable electricity generation, slightly more than hydropower.139 In mid-2016, Utah had five wind farms operating with nearly 400 megawatts of capacity, and another 80 megawatts under construction.140 The state's largest wind farm sends its power to California.141 There is commercial wind power potential in the Wasatch and Uinta mountain ranges in Utah's north-central region and on the mesas of the western region.142 However, most wind investment approved for Utah utilities to date has involved Wyoming projects that Utah regulators deemed more cost-effective than in-state proposals.143

In 2015, Utah was one of eight states with operating geothermal power capacity144 and one of seven with commercial-scale geothermal electricity generation. Three small geothermal facilities southwestern Utah provided about one-fourth of the state's net renewable electricity generation.145,146 The state has among the best geothermal potential in the nation,147 and more geothermal projects are in development.148,149,150

Until recently, biomass, primarily in the form of landfill gas at facilities on the Wasatch Front, provided the remainder of Utah's renewable net electricity generation, because Utah historically obtained little net electricity generation from solar energy.151 But more solar generating capacity is being built, and, in 2015, solar provided more electricity than biomass for the first time.152 As of April 2016, 166 megawatts of utility-scale solar generating capacity were operating and some 600 megawatts were under construction.153,154,155 Of 17 areas of the West found suitable for large-scale solar development by a federal environmental study, 3 are in Utah.156 In addition, the state requires private and cooperative electric utilities to offer net metering,157 and solar arrays on consumers' rooftops have been increasing by rapidly.158 In 2015, nearly 3,000 residential customers in Utah had solar facilities,159 and seven-tenths of all the state's solar generation came from distributed (customer-sited small-scale) facilities.160

Endnotes

1 Davies, Robert, "Climate Utah—Cathedral Peaks, Monument Valleys, Ancient Lakes and the Greatest Snow on Earth," State Climate Series, Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, accessed October 18, 2016.
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3 U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census: Utah Profile, Population Density by Census Tract, accessed October 18, 2016.
4 U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census Briefs, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010" (March 2011), p. 2.
5 U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates, State Totals: Vintage 2015, Cumulative Estimates of the Resident Population Change for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015 (NST-EST2015-02).
6 Governor's Office of Energy Development, Utah's Energy Resources and Priorities, accessed October 18, 2016.
7 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), State Energy Data System, Table P3, Energy Production and Consumption Estimates in Trillion Btu, 2014.
8 Utah Economic Council, 2016 Economic Report to the Governor, Summary and p. 115-7.
9 State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report, p. 6.
10 Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development, Targeted Industries, accessed October 18, 2016.
11 Gorte, Ross, et al., Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data, Congressional Research Service (February 8, 2012), p. 4-5.
12 U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Number of Producing Leases on Federal Lands (October 29, 2015).
13 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C10, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2014.
14 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C13, Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2014.
15 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C12, Total Energy Consumption Estimates, Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Energy Consumption per Real Dollar of GDP, Ranked by State, 2014.
16 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Production, Annual-Thousand Barrels, 2010-15.
17 Utah Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, Oil and Gas Drilling Results, by County, by Year, Utah Oil Production by County, 2012-16, updated October 20, 2016.
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22 Vanden Berg, Michael, Utah's Energy Landscape, Circular 121, Utah Geological Survey (2016), p. 24.
23 Vanden Berg, Michael, Utah's Energy Landscape, Circular 121, Utah Geological Survey (2016), p. 2.
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25 Utah Rails.net, Utah's Oil Industry and Utah's Railroads, updated July 5, 2015.
26 Vanden Berg, Michael, Utah's Energy Landscape, Circular 121, Utah Geological Survey (2016), p. 26.
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38 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F15, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2014.
39 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gasoline Reid Vapor Pressure, State by State RVP Table, updated August 1, 2016.
40 Utah Administrative Code, Rule R307-301. Utah and Weber Counties: Oxygenated Gasoline Program As a Contingency Measure, as in effect October 1, 2016.
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54 U.S. EIA, Utah Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals, 1967-2015.
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56 Utah Governor's Office of Planning and Budget, Economic Outlook 2012 (January 2012), p. 34.
57 Vanden Berg, Michael, Utah's Energy Landscape, Circular 121, Utah Geological Survey (2016), p. 31.
58 State of Utah, Oil and Gas Program, Coalbed Methane Gas Production by Year, updated through July 2016.
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61 U.S. EIA, Top 100 U.S. Oil & Gas Fields (March 2015).
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64 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Utah, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2015.
65 Utah Governor's Office, Energy Initiatives and Imperatives: Utah's 10-Year Strategic Energy Plan 2.0, updated February 2014, p. 15.
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74 Vanden Berg, Michael, Utah's Energy Landscape, Circular 121, Utah Geological Survey (2016), p. 16.
75 O'Donoghue, Amy Joi, "Interior Halts New Federal Coal Leases," Deseret News (January 15, 2016).
76 U.S. EIA, Quarterly Coal Distribution Report, by origin state and by destination state, Utah, January-December 2015.
77 U.S. EIA, Coal, Annual Coal Distribution Report, Domestic distribution of U.S. coal by origin state, consumer, destination and method of transportation, and Domestic distribution of U.S. coal by destination state, consumer, destination and method of transportation, 2010-14.
78 PacifiCorp, Huntington Plant, accessed October 22, 2016.
79 Cassell, Barry, "PacifiCorp Clears Way for Shutdown of Deer Creek Coal Mine in Utah," Electric Light & Power (August 11, 2015).
80 Power Plants Around the World, Coal-Fired Power Plants in Utah, Bonanza Plant, accessed October 22, 2016.
81 U.S. EIA, Quarterly Coal Distribution Report, by origin state and by destination state, Utah, January-December 2015.
82 U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Utah, Coal, accessed October 22, 2016.
83 Vanden Berg, Michael, Utah's Energy Landscape, Circular 121, Utah Geological Survey (2016), p. 18, 21.
84 Utah Economic Council, 2016 Economic Report to the Governor, p. 116.
85 Fitch Ratings, "Fitch Assigns 'AA-' Bank Note Rating to Intermountain Power Agency, UT CP; Outlook Stable" (January 14, 2016).
86 "California Sticks With Coal Exit Despite Grid Concerns," Argus Media (June 23, 2016).
87 Nemec, Richard, "Nevada Moves From Coal to NatGas, Renewables for Power Generation," Natural Gas Intelligence Daily Gas Price Index (August 18, 2016).
88 Doughman, Andrew, "NV Energy Bill Wins Passage, Signaling State's Shift From Coal," Las Vegas Sun (June 4, 2013).
89 U.S. EIA, Quarterly Coal Distribution Report, by origin state and by destination state, Utah, January-December 2015.
90 U.S. EIA, Coal, Annual Coal Distribution Report, Domestic distribution of U.S. coal by origin state, consumer, destination and method of transportation, and Domestic distribution of U.S. coal by destination state, consumer, destination and method of transportation, 2010-14.
91 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report, Domestic and foreign distribution of U.S. coal by state of origin, 2010-14.
92 Vanden Berg, Michael, Utah's Energy Landscape, Circular 121, Utah Geological Survey (2016), p. 21.
93 Maffly, Brian, "Environmentalists Sue to Halt Sanpete County Coal Deal," Salt Lake Tribune (September 16, 2015).
94 Oakley, Doug, "Unlikely Partners: Utah Investing $53 Million to Export Coal Through Oakland Port," San Jose Mercury News (April 24, 2015).
95 Utah Governor's Office, Energy Initiatives and Imperatives: Utah's 10-Year Strategic Energy Plan 2.0, updated February 2014, p. 37.
96 Baldassari, Erin, "Utah Official: Oakland's Ban on Coal Risks Terminal Investment," San Jose Mercury News (June 28, 2016).
97 Southwest Regional Partnership on Carbon Sequestration, accessed October 23, 2016.
98 Brown, Bruce, 2014 SECARB Stakeholders Meeting, National Energy Technology Laboratory (March 4, 2014), slide 17.
99 Utah Governor's Office, Energy Initiatives and Imperatives: Utah's 10-Year Strategic Energy Plan 2.0, updated February 2014, p. 22.
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101 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Detailed State Data, Net Generation by State by Type of Producer by Energy Source, 1990-2014.
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105 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Utah, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, 2015.
106 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F21, Electricity Consumption Estimates, 2014.
107 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2016), Table 5.6.B.
108 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C1, Energy Consumption Overview: Estimates by Energy Source and End-Use Sector, 2014.
109 Vanden Berg, Michael, Utah's Energy Landscape, Circular 121, Utah Geological Survey (2016), p. 39.
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157 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Utah, Net Metering, updated May 25, 2016.
158 Maffly, Brian, "Utah's Solar Power Homeowners Fight Proposed Utility Fee," Salt Lake Tribune (May 23, 2014).
159 Vanden Berg, Michael, Utah's Energy Landscape, Circular 121, Utah Geological Survey (2016), p. 13.
160 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2016), Table 1.17.B.