Issue 1, 2019

Demystifying Energy Measurement Units

Here is a look at how the commonly used units of measurement of the various forms of energy (electricity, gasoline, natural gas, diesel fuel, home heating oil etc.) are related. The goal is to make it easier to compare them on an energy content basis.

The chart shown illustrates that natural gas has remained Canada’s most affordable fuel for many decades.  It also shows that for the foreseeable future, the affordability advantage of natural gas is expected to grow.  But with each energy form measured and sold in its unique units it’s hard for consumers to compare and know which energy is the most affordable.  To further complicate matters some energy forms are priced by their volume not their energy content (e.g. litres of gasoline/diesel fuel, or cubic metres of natural gas).  This adds to the challenge, particularly for natural gas, since it can be compressed and so a price per volume measure really tells us little about how much energy we are paying for.

But measures of energy content, (megawatt hours – MWh for electricity, Gigajoules –  GJ for natural gas, millions of British thermal units – mmBtu for natural gas and measures of volume (litres, cubic metres, cubic feet) can all be cross-converted.  Below is a collection of common unit conversions to help make energy measurement clearer and the value proposition of natural gas easier to identify and understand.

 

1 gigajoule (GJ) of natural gas is equal to…
in cubic metres (m3) in cubic feet (ft3) in kilowatt hours (kWh) in millions of British thermal units (mmBtu) in litres of gasoline in US gallons of gasoline in litres of diesel/home heating oil in US gallon of diesel/home heating oil
25.8661 913.9932 277.7855 0.94781 29.7866 7.8688 26.1132 6.8992

 

$10 per GJ of natural gas is equal to…
in $ per m3 in $per ft3 in $ per kWh in $ per mmBtu in $ per litre of gasoline in $ per gallon of gasoline in $ per litre of diesel/home heating oil in $ per gallon of diesel/home heating oil
$0.3866 $0.0109 $0.0360 $10.5506 $0.3357 $1.2708 $0.3829 $1.4494

The tables above makes clear that the affordability advantage of natural gas is significant, no matter how you measure and price it.