Fossil and Alternative Fuels - Energy Content

Listing of net(low) and gross(high) energy content in fossil and alternative fuels, together with a description of energy content measurement

Energy content is the same as the heat of combustion, and can be calculated from thermodynamical values, or measured in a suitable apparatus:

A known amount of the fuel is burned and the heat released is captured in a known mass of water in a calorimeter. If the initial and final temperatures of the water is measured, the energy released can be calculated using the equation

H = ΔT mCp

where H = heat energy absorbed (in J), ΔT = change in temperature (in °C), m = mass of water (in g), and Cp = specific heat capacity (4.18 J/g°C for water). The resulting energy value divided by grams of fuel burned gives the energy content (in J/g).

The table below gives the gross and net heating value of fossil fuels as well as some alternative biobased fuels.

Fuels Density Gross Heating Value Net Heating Value
Mass basis Volume basis Mass basis Volume basis
Gaseous Fuels @0°C/32°F and 1 atm kg/m3 grams/ft3 MJ/kg Btu/lb MJ/m3 Btu/ft3 MJ/kg Btu/lb MJ/m3 Btu/ft3
Natural gas (95% methane)* 0.747 21.2 54.0 23,216 40.34 1,049 48.7 20,956
Natural gas (US marked)* 0.777 22.0 52.2 22,453 40.60 1,089 47.1 20,267 36.65 983
Hydrogen 0.09 2.55 142.2 61,127 12.79 343 120.2 51,682 10.81 290
Still gas (in refineries) 1.159 32.8 51.0 21,905 59.05 1,584 46.9 20,163 54.36 1458
Liquid Fuels kg/m3 grams/gal MJ/kg Btu/lb MJ/m3 Btu/gal MJ/kg Btu/lb MJ/m3 Btu/gal
Crude oil 846 3,205 45.5 19,580 38,513 138,350 42.7 18,352 36,097 129,670
Conventional gasoline 744 2,819 46.5 20,007 34,613 124,340 43.4 18,679 32,317 116,090
Reformulated or low-sulfur gasoline 747 2,830 45.4 19,533 33,920 121,848 42.4 18,211 31,624 113,601
CA reformulated gasoline 746 2,828 45.6 19,595 34,010 122,174 42.5 18,272 31,715 113,927
Kerosene 790 2,994 46.4 19,948 36,656 131,675
U.S. conventional diesel 836 3,167 45.8 19,676 38,243 137,380 42.8 18,397 35,757 128,450
Low-sulfur diesel 846 3,206 45.6 19,594 38,552 138,490 42.6 18,320 36,046 129,487
Petroleum naphtha 724 2,745 48.1 20,669 34,819 125,080 44.9 19,320 32,548 116,920
NG-based FT naphtha 699 2,651 47.7 20,488 33,333 119,740 44.4 19,081 31,044 111,520
Residual oil 990 3,752 42.2 18,147 41,787 150,110 39.5 16,968 39,071 140,352
E-Diesel Additives 744 2,819 46.5 20,007 34,613 124,340 43.4 18,679 32,317 116,090
Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) 507 1,923 50.2 21,561 25,446 91,410 46.6 20,038 23,648 84,950
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) 428 1,621 55.2 23,734 23,612 84,820 48.6 20,908 20,800 74,720
Dimethyl ether (DME) 664 2,518 31.7 13,620 21,048 75,610 28.9 12,417 19,188 68,930
Dimethoxy methane (DMM) 859 3,255 25.7 11,036 22,046 79,197 23.4 10,061 20,099 72,200
Methyl ester (biodiesel, BD) 887 3,361 40.2 17,269 35,621 127,960 37.5 16,134 33,280 119,550
Fischer-Tropsch diesel (FTD) 796 3,017 45.5 19,549 36,197 130,030 43.2 18,593 34,427 123,670
Ethanol 788 2,988 29.8 12,832 23,531 84,530 27.0 11,587 21,248 76,330
Renewable Diesel I (SuperCetane) 748 2,835 46.6 20,047 34,879 125,294 43.6 18,729 32,586 117,059
Renewable Diesel II (UOP-HDO) 778 2,948 46.8 20,128 36,416 130,817 44.0 18,908 34,209 122,887
Renewable Gasoline 747 2,830 46.3 19,911 34,583 124,230 43.2 18,590 32,287 115,983
Liquid Hydrogen 71 268 141.8 60,964 10,027 36,020 120.1 51,621 8,490 30,500
Methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) 742 2,811 38.0 16,319 28,152 101,130 35.1 15,094 26,039 93,540
Ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE) 741 2,810 39.2 16,873 29,099 104,530 36.3 15,613 26,924 96,720
Tertiary amyl methyl ether (TAME) 769 2,913 39.3 16,906 30,223 108,570 36.4 15,646 27,971 100,480
Butane 584 2,213 49.2 21,157 28,734 103,220 45.3 19,466 26,437 94,970
Isobutane 559 2,118 49.1 21,108 27,437 98,560 44.9 19,287 25,071 90,060
Isobutylene 594 2,253 48.2 20,739 28,675 103,010 44.8 19,271 26,646 95,720
Propane 507 1,920 50.2 21,597 25,449 91,420 46.3 19,904 23,453 84,250
Solid Fuels MJ/kg Btu/lb Btu/ton** MJ/kg Btu/lb Btu/ton
Petroleum coke 31.3 13,460 26,920,000 29.5 12,685 25,370,000
Coal (wet basis) 24.0 10,304 20,608,570 22.7 9,773 19,546,300
Coal (low bituminous) 28.9 12,425 24,849,684
Coal (bituminous, wet basis) 27.3 11,723 23,445,900 26.1 11,230 22,460,600
Coal (high bituminous) 36.3 15,606 31,212,579
Coal (anthracite) 34.6 14,875 29,750,833
Coking coal (wet basis) 29.9 12,840 25,679,670 28.6 12,300 24,600,497
Charcoal (wood) 34.7 14,918 29,836,818
Farmed trees (dry basis) 20.6 8,852 17,703,170 19.6 8,406 16,811,000
Wood, oak 18.9 8,126 16,251,178
Wood, locust 19.7 8,470 16,939,058
Wood, Ponderosa pine 20 8,599 17,197,013
Wood, redwood 20.7 8,899 17,798,909
Herbaceous biomass (dry basis) 18.1 7,791 15,582,870 17.2 7,399 14,797,555
Corn stover (dry basis) 17.4 7,487 14,974,460 16.4 7,038 14,075,990
Grass (lawn cuttings) 19.3 8,298 16,595,118
Forest residue (dry basis) 16.5 7,082 14,164,160 15.4 6,622 13,243,490
Sugar cane bagasse 16.4 7,031 14,062,678 15.1 6,474 12,947,318
Newsprint 18.6 7,997 15,993,222
Cellulose 17.3 7,438 14,875,417
* Natural gas composition may vary a lot between different markets         ** Short ton, 1 short ton = 2000 lb = 907.18 kg       

Key numbers to remember:

Approximate conversion values between some fossil fuel volume, weight and energy units  (using net (=low) heating values):

  • 1 US gallon gasoline = 115000 Btu = 121 MJ = 32 MJ/liter
  • 1 boe (barell of oil equivalent) = 42 US gallons = 35 Imperial Gallons = 159 liter = 5.1 GJ = 4.8 million Btu = 1400 kWh
  • 1 metric tonne gasoline = 8.44 barrels = 1342 liter = 42.8 GJ 
  • 1 US gallon diesel = 129000 Btu  = 136 MJ = 36 MJ/liter
  • 1 liter diesel = 36.0 MJ 
  • 1 metric tonne coal = 32-35 GJ (bituminous/anthracite) = 27.5 GJ (low-bituminous)
  • 1 cubic feet natural gas = 950 Btu
  • 1 cubic meter natural gas = 36.5 MJ

Related Topics

  • Environment - Climate, meteorology, sun, wind and environmental resources
  • Combustion - Boiler house topics - fuels like oil, gas, coal, wood - chimneys, safety valves, tanks - combustion efficiency
  • Material Properties - Material properties for gases, fluids and solids - densities, specific heats, viscosities and more

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