In this post I had criticized a Sankey diagram depicting FIFA accounts published at BBC News. By drawing operating profits disproportionally they would overemphasize certain arrows.

Here is my version of the diagram, based on the values given in the article by Paul Sargeant (no warranty for the accuracy of these numbers). The orange arrow represents the operating profits, this time at the same scale.

Compare for yourself what impression the two diagrams create in you… and let me know by leaving a comment.

Energy flows are visualized on a machine touch screen panel, giving realtime information of energy consumption. This is from the PROFOXY system offered by Kröhnert Infotecs, a German engineering firm.

Basically two pie charts, one for the red part on the left side, and one for the green part on the right, would suffice (… I can’t believe I’m actually advocating pie charts here :-( ), but this Sankey diagram additionally gives a notion of “flow” and allows a grouping of consumers (on the right).

This one was sent to me by Winnie Feng (thanks!). A sample visualization of the vinyl chloride process, but with text in Chinese and English.

Browsing Google Patents can be fun, if you like long sentences… It also sometimes reveals a hand-drawn Sankey diagram, like this one:

This is from a patent filing EP 0494399 A1 on “Process to direct and treat production waters in a paper factory with installation for treatment of waste paper” by German inventor Wilhelm Menges.

The diagram is for a paper recycling process. The “thickening filtrate arising from the dispersion of waste paper is directly fed to a biological waste water” treatment. This reduces the COD levels.

Flow quantities are shown in printed numbers. A lot of hand-written numbers refer to process elements.

Preparing for a new assignment I searched for some ideas and came up with a diagram for an electric vehicle (EV). The original diagram is from a German text book on aerodynamics.

The Sankey diagram can be read counterclockwise starting at the top, where the vehicle battery is loaded. At every process step there are losses, the largest being rolling resistance and aerodynmic drag. When the driver brakes, energy is recuperated and fed back to the battery.

It took me some time to get this done, since the actual flow values were not explicitly given. Instead the energy efficiency and losses at each step are indicated as percentage values. Getting out my pocket calculator helped determine the values needed to setup the Sankey arrows.

From Dr. Sanjay Vashishtha at Firstgreen Consulting blog comes this Sankey diagram on energy output of a photovoltaics (PV) system. The article on ‘Estimation of Solar PV System Output’ dates back to 2012.

Simple unicolor left-to-right diagram with losses branching out vertically to the bottom. At every step energy efficiency in percent is shown, leaving 65% of the primary solar radiation input as power at meter. Losses have a stronger emphasis due to arrow spikes.

I had previously reported on Sankey diagrams being used in articles on circular economy (earlier this year in January and back in 2013). Researchers in the field of MFA, circular economy and urban mining apparently love to use them…

Here is another one from an article by Willi Haas et.al. published a few weeks ago (How Circular is the Global Economy?: An Assessment of Material Flows, Waste Production, and Recycling in the European Union and the World in 2005; DOI: 10.1111/jiec.12244).


Open Access @ Journal of Industrial Ecology, via Green Manufacturing blog

The answer to the question raised in the title is answered visually: Not very circular!

The above Sankey diagram is for “all societal material flows globally”, world mass flows moved by mankind. 62 gigatonnes (Gt) of material processed, out of which 58 Gt are newly extracted, and only 4 Gt recycled. “From such a system-wide metabolic perspective, the degree of circularity of the global economy measured as the share of actually recycled materials in total processed materials appears to be very low, at 6%.”

Fossil fuels (yellow) are converted to energy, most biomass (green) ends up as gaseous emissions or solid waste. Construction materials are in orange and metals in blue and these add to stocks of buildings, infrastructures, and other goods with a lifetime longer than a year. The two red arrows are for industrial minerals and “waste rock” (would that be tailings from mining?). Note: The legend is cut off in the screengrab above (please check the original article, page 6).

Interesting article, make sure you read it (open access). It also features a second similar Sankey diagram for Europe (EU-27). Beautiful and intelligent use of a Sankey diagram.

This diagram is by Salim Qurashi and Gerry Fletcher for the May 29, 2015 BBC News article ‘How Fifa makes and spends its money’ by Paul Sargeant.

BBC News via Coffee Spoons blog

The data is based on FIFA financial statements for 2011 through 2014. Flows in US$. The diagram depicts how “the Zurich-based multi-million-[dollar] organisation make its money and what does it spend it on?”.

This is only “sort of a Sankey diagram” as Brendan Barry “the man behind Coffee Spoons” notes. The light blue arrow for “operating profits” represents the balance difference between turquoise incoming and red outgoing flows. The infographic authors chose to set the arrows apart, which make it difficult to verify if arrow widths are to scale.

For the expert eye, some observations:

(1) Why has the sort order for incoming and outgoing flows been reversed? Imagine the red outgoing flow for “World Cup” (2,312m) being located at the right side thus becoming the longest arrow with a stronger emphasis…

(2) Not all flows are to scale: Compare the width of the light blue arrow for “operating profits” (338m) with another flow in the 300m-range such as “Financial Losses” (331m). An unintended flaw?