Below is a Sankey diagram representing the energy balance for the city of Urumqi in Northwestern China. This was elaborated in a Sino-German Project on ‘Meeting the Resource Efficiency Challenge in a Climate Sensitive Dryland Megacity Environment: Urumqi as a Model City for Central Asia’ and has been published in the Integrated Heating and Building Energy Efficiency Master Plan for Urumqi in 2010

The Sankey diagram doesn’t sport the energy unit, but the text comment says:

The 2007 energy balance of Urumqi shows that about 541 PJ of primary energy was consumed in the city, accounting for 28% of the Xinjiang total (1,927 PJ). Urumqi used 25% of Xinjiang’s coal, 50% of its oil, 12% of its natural gas, and 4% of its renewable energy, much of it in heavy industry. This results in high energy related per-capita CO2 emissions of 22 tonnes. In 2007, the city consumed 14.7 million tonnes of coal (approximately 51% of its primary energy supply) whereby 30% of the coal consumption was used for the heating of buildings.

A notice on led me to this fascinating video on visualnews. It shows the making of an infographic in two minutes or 3657 frames and is by Jess Bachmann for

The central element of the infographic is a Sankey diagram on the trade flows between the United States and China (and to/from other countries).

it is interesting to see how Jess did every weighted arrow as a brush line with rounded head (the heads are neatly hidden behind the country maps, or capped at the other end). Each horizontal, vertical and curved segment is done individually.

In the YouTube comments of the long version of this video the author replied to one commenter: “After determining a metric, i.e 1 pixel width = $1M, I then stroked a line with the corresponding size brush. A $34M item would have a 34px width line. At one point you can even see a calculator popping up (0:55 into the video).

The long (7 minute) version has a lot more details on how the infographic comes to life. You can even see that Jess keeps saving his work from time to time…

Wow, what a hell lot of work – but the result sure looks gorgeous.

I calculated that Jess took more than 10h to complete this: 3657 frames, ten seconds between each frame = 36570 sec, 3600 seconds to an hour, makes 10.16 hours! I am just glad I have my Sankey diagramming software, so at least I don’t have to bother about brush sizes.

I really had doubts, whether I should present the following Sankey diagram I found on John Locke’s Gracefulspoon blog [aesthetic photos there, have a look!]. Finally decided to feature it, because I want to show the whole spectrum of application fields for Sankey diagrams, and I am trying to put my focus more on the graphical aspects of the diagram rather than the explicit content of the diagrams.

The Sankey diagram featured in this post is for “life support in an artifically closed system” or in other words, a prison cell. John explains:

“a sustainable prison cell unit for future Beijing. Because of their high population density, prisons are actually prime contenders for tests of renewable energy methods, such as waste to energy, and water recycling features. … each prisoner generates energy for their own confinement, but also send excess energy back to a central grid, acting like capacitors.”

The Sankey diagram has four interconnected “cycles”, each with their individual units: the energy flows (kWh), the water cycle (Litres), the waste cycle (kg), and food flows (lbs). The four subsystems thus must be interpreted relative to each other and not with their absoulute values. The main input that “feeds” the system is solar energy, the main output is recovered energy. Apart from a freshwater input flow and some comparatively small waste output flows (branching out vertically), the system seems fully closed. It is of course an idealistic assumption that prisoners can be fed solely on genetically modified micro-algae…

If you look at the Locke’s ‘Global Panopticon’ study project “conceived more as a sci-fi narrative”, let’s just hope that such ideas never turn reality.