Tag: U.S.

Colorado River Water Accounting Sankey

From Fei-Ling Tseng’s design blog comes this Sankey diagram. Her post is on some visualizations and infographics done for a project on water economies/ecologies of the Colorado River water system.

The diagram shows the distribution of water from the Colorado river to different lower basin states (Nevada, Arizona, California), “export” to Mexico and a breakdown to irrigation areas within California. The quantities are in acre feet (a.f.). Underlying data is from the Colorado River Accounting and Water Use Report 2009.

Simple, beautiful, conveying the message … and a single white water-drop as catchy design element.

Extended LLNL Sankey diagram

Blog reader Johan Land submitted the Sankey diagram below. “As I am interested in the energy field I especially was fascinated by the LLNL graph over US energy consumption. I spent the weekend on further enhancing the LLNL graph using a trial version of e!Sankey (and data that I have gathered the last few years). I’m attaching the PNG-file for this graph. Feel free to share it if you like the graph!”


(click image to enlarge)

The typical LLNL graph has been extended by the red section on the left that shows a world energy breakdown. Only the U.S. energy consumption is traced further.
The second extension is the pink section. Here, Johan has broken down the energy use sectors ‘Residential’, ‘Commercial’, ‘Industrial’ and ‘Transportation’ in one or two further steps.

All flows are in TWh, data is from 2005 to 2009. The author used several additional data sources and recompiled the data, so that “figures may differ from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory estimations”. See notes for further information.

Good Sankey diagram, and definitely a great job Johan did here. The only suggestion I have, is to add percentage figures to the regional energy breakdown (red section on the left). Unfortunately, the watermark spoils the overall impression, but this is owed to the fact that he used a free trial version.

Johan also mentioned that he is working on forecasts up to 2050, and an animated GIF “running it over time since 1950 up until 2008”. Hope to be able to show you these here on the blog someday.

Transport Sankey Diagram

A reader of the blog pointed me to some Sankey diagrams available on the U.S. Department of Transport (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) website. Sankey arrows are shown as a U.S. map overlay.


The first transport Sankey diagram shows the net tons of goods being transported on flatcars (either as trailer-on-flatcar, or container-on-flatcar) on the U.S. railway systems. The transport volume quantities are clustered into four groups shown with four different arrow widths. It is nice to see how in the eastern part you still have many railroad tracks, but with significantly less transport on them, while to the west coast you basically have 3 main lines, two of which carry more than 25 mio tons of freight per year.

The second one represents freight transport on railroad (bright red), inland waterways (blue) and national highways (dark red). Values also in million tons per year. I am not sure whether flows are to scale, or if transport quantities are also clustered into groups as in the first diagram. I can distinguish at least five different arrow magnitudes, even though only three sizes are given in the legend. A great transport Sankey diagram, as it shows that the East has most of the cargo, and has a much denser transport infrastructure. The reason why railroad transport on this second Sankey diagram differs so much from what is shown the first one, is probably due to the transport of bulk materials not shown in the intermodal transport quantity map.

Flows are not directional in both diagrams, so I assume that quantities for both directions have simply been added.

Can anybody confirm that the massive stream out of Wyoming by rail is coal?

PET flows in the US

Polyethylene terephthalate is something everyone of us uses almost every day. Better known by its acronym PET it is used for plastic film and soft drink bottles.

The following Sankey diagram is from a presentation on PET beverage bottle recycling by Brandon Kuczenski and Roland Geyer of Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It was held on the First Symposium on Industrial Ecology for Young Professionals (SIEYP) in Tempe, AZ on May 17, 2009.

The Sankey diagram shows PET flows in million metric tons in the U.S. in 2006. 4.29 mio tons of pet flakes are being produced, of which 2.63 mio tons are transformed into PET bottles (other products are PET film and PET fiber). Only 22.4% of these bottles could be recovered after use. This “loss” is being represented by the blue flow which has only a fourth to a fifth of the width of the red entry flow. Recovered PET bottles are exported or reclaimed, closing the loop at least for a fraction of the PET flows.

Interesting Sankey diagram. Congratulations to Kuczenski/Geyer for visualizing this so clearly. Your comments appreciated

West Virginia Energy Flow Sankey

The Mountain State saw the annual Governor’s Energy Summit in Roanoke on Dec 9, 2009. West Virginia relies heavily on coal, and is a net energy exporter to other U.S. states.

The energy flow Sankey diagram below (created by Marshall University for WV Energy Division) was presented at last year’s energy summit, and is available along with the other presentations here.

Figures are for 2006 in trillion BTU. Energy carriers used in WV are displayed as flows entering from the left. Domestic energy sources are in orange, while imported supplies are in sand color. Overall energy in 2006 was 4,384 trillion BTU. The state exported 81% of the energy (blue) and consumed 19% within (836 trillion BTU). A breakdown of doemstic consumption by sectors is shown in pink.

This Sankey diagram looks nice, but violates the basic rule for Sankey diagrams: flows have to be to scale among each other. The magnitude of the stacked orange arrows (representing 4100 trillion BTU West Virginia production) should be 14.5 times larger than that of the sand color flow (representing 283.86 trillion BTU), however it is only about 9 times larger, overemphasizing external supply (or underrepresenting domestic energy supply).

Or, compare the two arrows fro “crude oil” (10.14) and “natural gas” (230.12). The latter should have 23 times the width of the other… The blue arrow for “international raw coal” (392) looks approximately as wide as that of the blue “natural gas” (106). The scale might still be somehow OK for the base of the arrow, but as the arrow becomes thinner towards the head, the 4:1 ratio is definitely not supported any more.

Material Flows on the Island of Hawai’i

A group of graduate students form the Center of Industrial Ecology at Yale University in 2005/2006 researched the material flows on the “Big Island of Hawai’i”. Their research report (which can be found on the website of the Kohala Center) shows two Sankey diagrams, one of which is shown here.

Material Flow Accounting (MFA) “is the study of material flows on a national or regional scale. It is therefore sometimes also referred to as regional, national or economy-wide material flow analysis.” (Wikipedia). MFA is a research field in industrial ecology. As the authors of the report write,

Using an island as a unit of analysis is valuable both to the researcher and to those interested in the sustainability of the island itself. The researcher benefits from the island’s clear boundaries (most often defined by a surrounding water body) and a relative advantage in data collection provided by the fact that borders are monitored. Material flows are therefore relatively easier to understand on islands than in larger, more complex non‐island systems.

I have been posting about the use of Sankey diagrams in MFA before, and with few exceptions (Material Flow Sankey Diagram of Japan), have found that examples of Sankey diagrams for national MFA accounts typically are limited to selected bulk materials (e.g. biomass in Switzerland, gold flows in the U.S.).

Flows in the above Sankey diagram for the island of Hawai’i are in gigagrams (kilotonnes) and refer to the year 2005. Inputs are shown on the left side, and the fate of those inputs can be seen as exits to the right. More than 75% of the material flows are imported from off the island, the majority of these flows (57%) are construction materials. Consequently, road and building construction are the largest net addition to stocks with almost 2,000 kilotonnes.

The Sankey diagram has some minor flaws, regarding scale of the flows. Look for example to the division of the landfilled waste arrow (422 kt) into three almost equal portions, which are supposed to represent 79.3 kt, 125.1 kt and 217.7 kt. Also the width of the volcanic rock input flow (429.7 kt) is about four times the width of the machinery input flow (representing 200.2 kt). Still, I think it is a good Sankey diagram, and I wouldn’t mind joining the research group on their next visit to the islands…

United States Annual Energy Review 2008

U.S. Energy Information Admmoinstration (EIA) now has the 2008 Annual Energy Review (AER) on their website. It contains Sankey diagrams for the nation’s overall energy flows (almost a “classic”) and four additional separate Sankey diagrams for petroleum, natural gas, coal and electricity.

This is the U.S. Energy Flow diagram for 2008:

Check the original PDF file with the accompanying footnotes for further details. Overall energy consumption in 2008 was 99 Quadrillion BTUs (preliminary value, slightly down from the 101 Quadrillion BTUs in 2007.

Among the other diagrams in the report, I chose to show the one for coal. 1121 mio. short tons have been consumed in the U.S. in 2008, mainly (1041 mio short tons) for electric power generation. The U.S. is a net coal exporter.

The diagram has a weird sinking downward feeling, caused by the fact that the main left-to-right orientation axis is not maintained. Looking at this it makes me want to shout out: “Hey coal Sankey, cheer up, life isn’t that black…!” 😉

The original full AER report (7.5 MB) can be found here.