In my mini-series on National Energy Balances (Balance Energético Nacional, BEN) of countries in South and Central America, I have reached the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

I couldn’t find any Sankey diagrams on the website of the Ministerio de Hidrocarburos, which apparently is responsible for drawing up the energy balances for Bolivia. However, I was sure they must exist, as a press release for the launch event of the report exists. Finally I found a publication of the ministry for 2000-2009 in the BIVICA library and it has some black/white energy flow diagrams.

There have been newer editions of the report until at least 2015, and here is the BEN Bolivia for 2014 (from the OLADE library), You might remember that OLADE, the inter-governmental Organización Latinoamericana de Energía plays an important role in motivating countries to draw up their BEN and runs a website where BENs are available for many Latin American countries).


The unit of flows is ‘kbep’ (kilo barrels of oil equivalents / miles de barriles equivalentes de petróleo). Now, this Sankey diagram is definitely not to scale: the width of the flow representing 133,902 kbep of gas would have to be almost 6 times wider than the one standing for 23,065 kbep of petroleum. The biomass flow would have to be much thinner in comparison, hence it is over emphasized in the diagram for the reader who is unaware. My feeling is that the person who did this wasn’t acting with bad intentions, but had no technical means or support to do this properly and just glued it together from round rectangles, arrows and other shapes.

Definitely a candidate for a remake, if I find the time…

An analysis of the BEN Bolivia and some background on the data is available (in Spanish) in this paper.

Working my way up the southern cone, here is the Balanço Energético Nacional 2014 for Brazil. Found this on the webpage of Curitiba based consulting firm ACV Brasil.

The national energy balances for Brazil are published annually by the Ministério de Minas e Energia (MME), and newer reports are available (PDF for 2018, large!). However, the energy flows diagrams in these official reports are less refined, so I opted to go with the remake by ACV.


The unit of flow is not shown, but my guess is that it is Mtep. like in the original publication.

So, after Argentina and Uruguay, here is the Balance Energético Nacional (BEN) for Paraguay.

I couldn’t find any Sankey diagram for the national energy flows on any government website. However, a document on the Balance Energético Nacional (BEN) is published annually by the Viceministério de Minas y Energía. It contains this schematic drawing:

I turned this into a Sankey diagram using the ktep values and the percentage shares indicated.


The structure of this BEN is a little different from the ones previously seen, since it doesn’t indicate the sectors of final consumption. Obviously, most imported crude derivates are used for transport. Regarding biomass, the report indicates that wood is used in households for cooking and sugar cane to produce ethanol to be mixed into fuels for the transport sector. Electricity is produced entirely from hydropower and Paraguay exports over half of the electricity generated to its neighbours Argentina and Brasil.

Working my way up the southern cone, next in the mini-series on national energy balances for countries in Latin America is the one for Argentina‘s neighbor: Uruguay.

The Ministerio de Industria, Energía y Minería (MIEM) is publishing the Balance Energetico Nacional (BEN) for Uruguay and there is a dedicated website with all the underlying data.


The flow diagram (diagrama de flujo) for the 2015 energy balance was produced by engineering and energy consultancy SEG Ingenieria from Montevideo and appeared in their technical file on energy indicators (Nov 2016, in Spanish only).

Flows are in ktoe (Spanish: ktep, kilo tonelada equivalente de petróleo). The country-wide final consumption in 2015 was 4399 ktoe.

The round icons visualize sources, energy conversion and consuming sectors. They look nice and playful, however, they might also dissimulate the flow quantities: For example, if you look at ‘Transporte’ and ‘Industria’ in the right-hand side, they do have the same diameter, but transport has a 28% share of the final consumption while industry has 42%.

Recently I have been reading about energy policies in Latin American countries. Quito-based OLADE, the inter-governmental Organización Latinoamericana de Energía plays a key role in coordination and cooperation between countries in regard to energy.

OLADE has also established the SIER (Sistema de Información Energética Regional), and one of their products is SieLAC (Sistema de Información Energética de Latinoamérica Latina y el Caribe) where energy data for 27 countries can be accessed.

For all countries the national energy balance (Balance Energético Nacional, BEN) can be produced as Sankey diagrams for the years 2005 through to 2010. Further, these energy flows can also be shown for regions, such as the Caribbean, the Andean countries or the “Southern Cone”.

Here is the one for Argentina in 2010.

To try for yourself, just go to the sieLAC page and click on ‘Balance Energético Resumido’. Then select country, year and the unit.
Unfortunately, data for more recent years is not available at this time.

This work of OLADE has inspired me to start a loose mini-series of posts titled ‘LatAm BEN’ where I will be showing Sankey diagrams representing national energy balances from the region. Don’t worry, they will not all be from SieLAC, and will show how differently BENs can look like.

This Sankey diagram depicting the energy balance of Chile for 2015 can be found on the website Gestiona Energía MiPyMEs (MiPyMEs is the Spanish term for ‘small and medium-sized enterprises’, SMEs).

Flows are in TCal (teracalories), a unit for energy we don’t get to see very often (1 TCal = 4,205 Joules). What surprised me most in this figure was that ‘Biomasa Leña’ (biomass firewood) is the third most used primary energy source. The accompanying pie chart on the same page confirms that crude oil (25%) and coal (20%) are the most important sources, followed by biomass and oil derivates (each 19%). I guess this should read ‘biomass AND firewood’ rather than ‘biomass firewood’.

Some design shortcomings, in particular where the downward sloping stacked Sankey arrow turns to run horizontally to join the node ‘Electricidad’, and at the input side of the primary energy box, where the flows for ‘Petróleo Crudo’, ‘Carbón’ and ‘Biomasa Leña’ overlap and somehow don’t seem to hold their width all the way. My guess is that this is owed to the wish to keep the figure as compact as possible.

Addendum 11/2018: The energy balance Sankey diagram for Chile can be produced at the Energía Abierta website of The Chilean National Energy Commission.

Another Sankey diagram from the article ‘Exergoecology Assessment of Mineral Exports from Latin America: Beyond a Tonnage Perspective’ by Jose-Luis Palacios I discussed in this recent post.

Non-fuel minerals exported in 2013 from Latin America to other continents. Flows are in Mtoe (for the reason why these flows are measured with a typical energy unit and to learn about the ERC approach read the article). Due to the scale, some minerals can not be seen as individual flows in the Sankey diagram and are thus grouped as ‘Rest of Minerals’ (black stream).

Another example for a Sankey diagram on a map from an article ‘Exergoecology Assessment of Mineral Exports from Latin America: Beyond a Tonnage Perspective’ by Jose-Luis Palacios (Escuela Politécnica Nacional, Quito, Ecuador) et al. published in Sustainability 2018, 10(3), 723 as open access article distributed under Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.

I had not heard of the term ‘exergoecology’ before:

Exergoecology is the application of the exergy analysis in the evaluation of natural fluxes and resources on earth. The consumption of natural resources implies destruction of organized systems and dispersion, which is in fact generation of entropy or exergy destruction. This is why the exergy analysis can describe perfectly the degradation of natural capital.
The thermodynamic value of a natural resource could be defined as the minimum work (exergy) needed to produce it with a specific composition and concentration…
(Source: Exergoecology Portal)

The authors of the article argue that the Material Flow Analysis (MFA) approach should be combined with a measure for the thermodynamic quality of minerals, “especially when dealing with non-fuel minerals”. They propose to use the indicator exergy replacement costs (ERC) from exergoecology because it “considers the scarcity degree of the commodities in the crust and the energy required to extract them. When a mineral is scarcer and its extraction and beneficiation processes are more difficult, its ERC value becomes higher”.

These two sets of Sankey diagrams visualize this approach:

The two Sankey diagrams on the left are for Chile, the two on the right for Mexico.

The figure at the top is a common mass-based figure, showing minerals production, imports, domestic consumption and exports for certain minerals. The unit of measure is million tonnes per year (in 2013).

The one at the bottom shows exergy replacement costs (ERC) measured in million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe). For each mineral an energy indicator in GJ per tonne of element has been applied, representing the work (energy) to extract the mineral.

In the case of Chile we can see for example that iron, copper and salt are the minerals mined in largest quantities (mass-wise). However, iron and salt only make up a small fraction of ERC, while copper and potash dominate the picture. In other words: Potash has a high exergy replacement cost to produce given the work effort required to mine it and in face of its scarcity. Copper comes in second.

For Mexico the figure a the top and below look pretty similar in regard to the proportions of each of the colored flows. One could say that the minerals are similarly difficult or expensive to extract. Coal (yellow band) is comparatively wider in the mass flow diagram than in the exergy replacement costs diagram, so it is “cheaper” in regard to exergy cost to be mined.

Many more interesting details to discover and the article is well worth reading. In my oponion a fascinating blend of two approaches and a great use for Sankey diagrams.