U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Date of this Version



Published in Ecological Modelling 2 2 0 ( 2 0 0 9 ) 40–50.


Petroleum fuels are the primary energy basis for transportation and industry. They are almost always an important input to the economic and social activities of humanity. Emergy analyses require accurate estimates with specified uncertainty for the transformities of major energy and material inputs to economic and environmental systems. In this study, the oil refining processes in Italy and the United States were examined to estimate the transformity and specific emergy of petroleum derivatives. Based on our assumptions that petroleum derivatives are splits of a complex hydrocarbon mixture and that the emergy is split based on the fraction of energy in a product, we estimated that the transformity of petroleum derivatives is 65,826 sej/J±1.4% relative to the 9.26E+24 sej/year planetary baseline. Estimates of the specific emergies of the various liquid fuels from Italian and U.S. refineries are within 2% of one another and the relationship of particular values varies with the refinery design. Our average transformity is only 1.7% larger than the current estimate for petroleum fuels determined by back calculation, confirming the accuracy of this transformity in existing emergy analyses. The model uncertainty between using energy or mass to determine how emergy is split was less that 2% in the estimate of both the transformity and specific emergy of liquid fuels, but larger for solid and gaseous products. This study is a contribution to strengthen the emergy methodology, providing data that can be useful in the analysis of many human activities.