Big Foot(print)

5/16/09 – Armed Forces Day

The Physical Footprint

The buzzword of the day has been the carbon footprint. Here we can see that natural gas, while not necessarily the fuel of choice, may really be the hydrocarbon of choice for electric generation on an emissions basis. The following table makes this comparison on for pounds of the pollutant per billion BTUs.

Pollutant

Natural Gas

Coal

Particulates 5 3,100
Sulfur Dioxide 1 1,700
Nitrous oxides 100 834
Carbon Dioxide 115 210

Then there is the physical footprint of various energy sources. This table shows the acreage required for the equivalent energy output.

Energy Form

Acreage

Natural Gas  0.5 (Well Site)
Solar Panels 46
Wind 300
Biomass 402

Here in my home state of Colorado, we recently were producing 3.7 BCF/day from about 25,000 wells. The equivalent energy produced from wind would require about 62,000 turbines covering 3,500 square miles.

This is just another way of looking at energy density. That is the BTUs per pound, liter or cubic meter. While is other way of looking at the footprint is interesting depending on your curiosity, perhaps this should be expanded to include many more forms of energy and do it on a BTU/acre/dollar. Are there any students out there looking for a paper topic?

(Data from Scott Moore)

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