Energy Measurements

Crude Oil | Natural Gas | Electricity | Other Conversions

What's a watt? How much is a joule? And how large is a barrel, anyway? Energy is available in a variety of commodities, each with their own set of established values to equate a return in terms of heat and light, and to allow for ease of selling and buying in the marketplace.

The range of standard metric, U.S. and Imperial measures to quantify the volume and energy value of different energy resources includes:

Crude Oil

Crude oil volume

Metric measures for volumes of crude oil are litres and cubic metres:

  • A litre is 1,000 cubic centimetres of liquid, or just more than one-quarter of a U.S. gallon.
  • A cubic metre is about the amount of space taken up by a standard kitchen range.

U.S. measures for volumes of crude oil are barrels and gallons:

  • A barrel is approximately 35 Imperial gallons, 42 U.S. gallons or 159 litres, roughly equivalent to the volume of liquid held by a standard bathtub.
  • One U.S. gallon is 3.8 litres.

Canadians typically report crude oil production in cubic metres, whereas production in the U.S. is reported in barrels. A typical Canadian oil well might produce 50 barrels of oil per day -- nearly eight cubic metres.

Crude oil energy value
Crude oil is usually measured by volume, not energy value. In Canada, energy value is typically measured by gigajoules; in the U.S., it is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs).

  • One gigajoule is one billion joules. The amount of natural gas consumed each year in a typical Canadian home is equivalent to 120 gigajoules.
  • One BTU is 1054.615 joules, equivalent to the amount of energy released by completely burning one wooden match.
    The amount of energy represented by one gigajoule is equivalent to about 30 litres of gasoline, 39 litres of propane, 278 kilowatt-hours of electricity or 45.5 kilograms of coal.

Crude oil conversions

 Convert from  Convert to  Multiply by
 barrel (petroleum)  cubic metre  0.158910
 cubic metre  barrel (petroleum)  6.292
 barrel (petroleum)  U.S. gallon  42.0
 U.S. gallon  barrel (petroleum)  0.02381
 barrel (petroleum)  litre  158.910
 litre  barrel (petroleum)  0.006292
 U.S. gallon  litre  3.785
 Imperial gallon  litre  4.546
 litre  U.S. gallon  0.2642
 drum  litre  205

Natural Gas

Natural gas volume

In Canada, volumes of natural gas are typically measured in cubic metres.

  • One cubic metre is about the space taken up by a standard kitchen range.

In the U.S., volumes of natural gas are usually measured in cubic feet.

  • One cubic foot is equivalent to the area inside a basketball.

Volumes of natural gas produced or sold are usually reported in millions, billions or trillions of cubic metres or feet. A typical well in Canada would produce 9,600 cubic metres of natural gas per day. A similar well in the U.S. would express its production as 338,800 cubic feet per day.

Natural gas energy value
Natural gas energy value is typically measured by gigajoules; in the U.S., it is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs).

  • One gigajoule is one billion joules. The amount of energy consumed each year in a typical Canadian home is equivalent to 120 gigajoules.
  • One BTU is 1054.615 joules, equivalent to the amount of energy released by completely burning one wooden match.

The amount of energy represented by one gigajoule is equivalent to about 30 litres of gasoline, 39 litres of propane, 278 kilowatt-hours of electricity or 45.5 kilograms of coal. The average home in Alberta uses about 120 gigajoules of natural gas per year. Examples of average energy consumption for standard household appliances include:

  • 40 gigajoules a year to heat a 40-gallon hot water tank for a family of four.
  • 4.3 gigajoules for a gas dryer processing 400 loads of laundry a year.
  • 4.2 gigajoules a year for natural gas range used two hours per day.
  • 3 gigajoules for a gas barbecue used 100 hours per year.

Natural gas conversions

 Convert from   Convert to  Multiply by
 cubic foot  cubic metre  0.028328
 cubic metre  cubic foot  35.301
 gigajoule  cubic metre  26.8
 million cubic feet  1,000 cubic metres  28.328
 1,000 cubic metres  million cubic feet  0.0353
 BTUs  joule  1054.615
 Joule  BTUs  0.0009482
 million BTUs  gigajoule  1.054615
 gigajoule  million BTUs  0.948213
 

Electricity

Electricity is measured in watts, a unit of work or power equivalent to one joule per second.

  • One watt is the energy expended by an electric current of one ampere flowing through a conductor at a potential of one volt.
  • One kilowatt is 1,000 watts, equivalent to the flow of energy required to light ten 100-watt light bulbs.
  • One thousand kilowatts is a megawatt, the unit most commonly used to measure the capacity of generating stations.

The average Alberta home consumes about 650 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month, or 7,800 kilowatt-hours a year. In a typical year, over 65 per cent of the electricity used by Albertans is generated by burning coal mined in the province. The heating power of coal varies according to the quality of coal burned. In general terms, one tonne of coal produces just slightly less than 1.7 MW of power.

Other Conversions

Other standard measures and their equivalencies can be obtained from the following table:

 Convert from  Convert to  Multiply by
 feet  metres  0.3048006
 metres  feet  3.280833
 miles  kilometres  1.60935
 kilometres  miles  0.62137
 acres  hectares  0.4047
 hectares  acres  2.471
 pounds  kilograms  0.4536
 kilograms  pounds  2.2046
 British ton  metric tonne  1.01605
 US ton  metric tonne  0.907185
 kilowatt  horsepower  1.341