Journal Article

Energy return on investment of major energy carriers: Review and harmonization


Net energy, that is, the energy remaining after accounting for the energy “cost” of extraction and processing, is the “profit” energy used to support modern society. Energy Return on Investment (EROI) is a popular metric to assess the profitability of energy extraction processes, with EROI > 1 indicating that more energy is delivered to society than is used in the extraction process. Over the past decade, EROI analysis in particular has grown in popularity, resulting in an increase in publications in recent years. The lack of methodological consistency, however, among these papers has led to a situation where inappropriate comparisons are being made across technologies. In this paper we provide both a literature review and harmonization of EROI values to provide accurate comparisons of EROIs across both thermal fuels and electricity producing technologies. Most importantly, the authors advocate for the use of point-of-use EROIs rather than point-of-extraction EROIs as the energy “cost” of the processes to get most thermal fuels from extraction to point of use drastically lowers their EROI. The main results indicate that PV, wind and hydropower have EROIs at or above ten while the EROIs for thermal fuels vary significantly, with that for petroleum oil notably below ten.

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Murphy, David J.
Raugei, Marco
Carbajales-Dale, Michael
Rubio Estrada, Brenda

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics


Year of publication: 2022
Date of RADAR deposit: 2022-06-10

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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