Energy flow from a gas pump

December 1, 2010

in Geek stuff, Science, The environment

Here’s a statistic that does a good job of demonstrating just how energy-rich fossil fuels are:

An ordinary gas station gasoline pump transfers about 16 megawatts (MW) of chemical energy while operating. That’s about ten times the power output of the Grouse Mountain wind turbine. For any particular span of time, a nuclear reactor puts out about as much energy as 63 gas pumps.

Also, as mentioned before, a barrel of oil contains energy equivalent to the energy output of an adult human working 12.5 years worth of 40 hour weeks.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan December 2, 2010 at 1:02 am

Can you give the hard-numbers that back up this example? I’ve been getting resistance when telling this to people – they don’t believe it could possibly be right.

Also, an interesting side point – gas pumps today are much slower than they were back in the 60s, when overspil and fumes from fuel pumping were not yet considered to be hazards.

Milan December 2, 2010 at 8:10 am

I got it from this Wikipedia page. A more authoritative source would be welcome.

Milan December 2, 2010 at 8:19 am

The figure seems intuitively plausible:

A 2009 Toyota Corolla with a 1.8-litre engine produces 132 horsepower. One electrical horsepower is 746 W, so the Corolla can put out nearly 100 kilowatts at peak output.

You can run that car for hours and hours and, when the tank is empty, it only takes a few minutes to transfer enough gasoline to do it again.

R.K. December 2, 2010 at 8:48 am

Also, cars are not very efficient at converting the chemical energy in petrol into their own kinetic energy.

R.K. December 2, 2010 at 8:51 am

If electric cars become common, how many more power plants will we need? How much more will electricity cost?

. December 5, 2010 at 6:28 pm

“Jonathan Fahey writes for AP that as the first mass-market electric cars go on sale next month, the power industry faces a huge growth opportunity, with SoCal Edison expecting to be charging 100,000 cars by 2015 and California setting a goal of 1 million electric vehicles by 2020. But utility executives are worried that the difficulty of keeping the lights on for the first crop of buyers — and their neighbors — could slow the growth of this industry because it’s inevitable that electric utilities will suffer some difficulties early on. ‘We are all going to be a lot smarter two years from now,’ says Mark Perry, director of product planning for Nissan North America. When plugged into a home charging station the first Leafs and Volts will draw 3,300 Watts and take about 8 hours to deliver a full charge, but both carmakers may soon boost that to 6,600 Watts. The Tesla Roadster, an electric sports car with a huge battery, can draw 16,800 Watts. That means that adding an electric vehicle or two to a neighborhood can be like adding another house, and it can stress the equipment that services those houses. The problem is that transformers that distribute power from the electrical grid to homes are often designed to handle less than about 12,000 watts so the extra stress on a transformer from one or two electric vehicles could cause it to overheat and fail, knocking out power to the block.”

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