Have you ever wondered whether to boil water using an electric kettle or to use cooking gas? Or maybe you currently use kerosene and wonder what the hype is about gas. My wife and I routinely debated our home’s energy cost with regards to different energy sources, so I decided to do an empiric comparison. Maybe someone else could use this to settle their own debates.
Let me start by addressing two common misconceptions in Nigeria. Firstly, it is untrue that electricity is cheaper than gas and kerosene. I think this misconception may be due to issues around estimated billing for many electricity consumers in Nigeria and the prevalence of energy theft, which makes consumers understate the cost of electricity. As prepaid meters gain popularity, consumers would better appreciate the cost of their electricity usage. Secondly, the fact that gas cylinders routinely need refilling (no domestic piped gas in Nigeria) does not necessarily mean that gas costs more than electricity. Here, psychology tends to act as we see that electricity “does not finish” but the gas in our cylinders may run out, sometimes while cooking something as unforgiving as beans! As the gas market expands, the number of refill stations and small-scale retailers is increasing, which should make it easier to refill gas cylinders. Households may also consider having a spare cylinder as backup for when gas runs out at inconvenient periods.
I have developed a simple Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet for comparing the cost of using electricity, gas, or kerosene to boil a given quantity of water (ignoring heat transfer efficiency). Using a formula common to secondary school physics students (q = -h = mcΔΘ), the amount of heat energy needed to take a given volume of water from a given temperature, Θ1, to a final temperature, Θ2, is calculated. If boiling water, Θ2 would be 100°C. Since electricity is purchased in “units” of kWh (kilowatts-hour), this unit has been used to compare the cost of heating water using the three energy sources. Costs are valid as at September 2020 and can be adjusted by inputting price changes into the appropriate cells. The spreadsheet can be downloaded here.
For those interested in a summary, cooking gas (liquefied petroleum gas or LPG) is the cheapest energy source per kWh (beats electricity and kerosene) even though one litre of kerosene has about 37% more energy than one litre of LPG. Should I also add that LPG is cleaner than kerosene and causes less kitchen stress as pots largely remain clear unlike kerosene soot that blackens pots and can impact your health? This is not an LPG advert, but as electricity costs go up (amidst unreliable supply), it may be smarter to swallow the higher upfront cost of gas cookers and cylinders in return for lower longer-term energy costs.
Image Credit: howstuffworks.com
PS. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) published ₦3,723.53 as the lowest cost (state average) of refilling a 12.5 kg LPG cylinder in Nigeria. However, for the applicable month (August 2020), a refilling station in Lagos quoted ₦3,300 for that refill size. Hence, gas (and maybe kerosene) may be cheaper in some parts of Nigeria than the average values published by NBS.
Update – November 2021. Gas prices have risen to a point where mains electricity (subsidised) in Nigeria is largely cheaper than gas. Check the comments below. Given price changes since this article was published, readers are advised to download the provided Excel spreadsheet and input current prices for an updated comparison.
Data Analysis Summary
|Mass, m||1||kilogram, kg|
|Specific Heat Capacity, c||4,184||J/kg.K|
|Initial Temperature, Θ1||20||°C|
|Final Temperature, Θ2||100||°C|
|Temperature Change, ΔΘ||80||°C|
|Heat Required, q||334,720||J|
To raise 1.0 L of water by 80.0°C
|Electricity||₦ 2.98||₦ 3.98||₦ 5.31|
|Gas||₦ 2.04||₦ 2.26||₦ 2.52|
|Kerosene||₦ 2.42||₦ 3.25||₦ 3.73|
Energy Content Assumptions
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)
Note that LPG in Nigeria is a mixture of propane and butane (70:30 mix ratio assumed)
Propane: 1 kg ≈ 1.96 L ≈ 13.6 kWh
Butane: 1 kg ≈ 1.72 L ≈ 13.7 kWh
LPG: 1 kg ≈ 1.88 L ≈ 13.63 kWh
1 L ≈ 7.22 kWh
Heating value of kerosene between 43.1 MJ/kg and 46.2 MJ/kg
1 MJ = 0.2778 kWh
Density = 800 kg/m3
1 kg ≈ 1.25 L ≈ 12.41 kWh
1 L ≈ 9.93 kWh
11 thoughts on “Electricity, Gas & Kerosene: Which is Cheaper?”
Very interesting. Of course l agree with you, Gas is cheaper compared to the other sources. However, it would be interesting if we can have average cost of producing a kWH of electricity using a gas powered generator.
I’m assuming you’re referring to gas power plants. Without doing any analysis, I would think that the unit cost of generating 1 kWh of electricity at a power station would be less than the cost of generating 1 kWh of heat using a domestic gas cooker, given that bulk purchasers of gas would likely have lower pricing. This assumes that the same amount of “gas” is used in both scenarios, which is a faulty assumption given that power plants would usually run on natural gas (methane) which contains less energy per unit volume than the propane and butane mixture in LPG. It also doesn’t consider heat transfer efficiency which would be difficult to factor in without knowing the exact equipment involved.
Fantastic one man!
I kept poring over those numbers and formulas. You took us back to FGC Physics.
It was a very scientific way of explaining something understandably complex.
Just some thoughts though…
Even though the spreadsheet contained the cost of kerosene/litre and electricity/kwh, the summary analysis on the essay didn’t have that detail.
Also, how do you factor in energy inefficiencies, knowing that energy is lost (converted) while been consumed. This is mostly true in the case of gas usage and kerosene usage, which happen to be summarily cheaper than electricity.
However, superb effort!
The summary is intended for persons who simply want the “final answer”, hence, it doesn’t contain all applicable data. For those interested in reviewing the analysis, the spreadsheet should be sufficient.
I’ve deliberately avoided the efficiency discussion as it would complicate things. For example, different electric, gas, and kerosene cookers would have varying heat transfer efficiencies that depends on intrinsic factors like the cooker construction and materials used, and extrinsic factors like whether there’s some breeze blowing near a cooker while in operation, which reduces the heat getting to a saucepan, or even the type of saucepan being used. I think it’s safer to run away from such complications.
This is an extremely useful analysis. Although I haven’t looked at it in-depth, I agree with you (mostly because I’ve forgotten most of my high school physics).
Good one 👍
Jilomes, please i will like to know if this is still valid. Comparing the present cost of gas.
The latest NBS data shows an average “highest” price of LPG for September 2021 as NGN7,500 (12.5kg refill).
Using this would give NGN4.09 as the cost of raising 1.0L of water by 80.0 deg C (from the example used in this article).
With this price, using gas is still cheaper than the highest electricity tariff (Band A), which has a unit cost of NGN5.31 for the same energy usage.
However, the cost of gas is currently higher than the cost for Band C (at least 12 hours of electricity supply per day, average). It would cost NGN3.98 per 1.0L of water in Band C locations.
From my calculations, we need gas at NGN9,728.89 per 12.5kg refill to equal the highest electricity tariff.
Since most Nigerians receive less than 12 hours of electricity per day, gas is now effectively more expensive to use than electricity. Hence, as long as gas prices remain at current levels (provided electricity subsidies remain), feel free to use your electric cookers whenever possible 😀
BTW, some reports already indicate gas prices breaching NGN10,000 per 12.5kg refill
Thanks so much Jilomes.
I use this newly installed smart prepaid meter, and it runs so fast. I can’t even use my electric cooker to boil water sef. God should contiune to provide for us ni koko .
Thanks so much
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Thank you Jilomes for breaking this down. And thinking aloud, should we be exploring other energy options so we can have a cheaper and more sustainable living?
I’m not so sure about “cheaper” energy options in a discussion about grid electricity and LPG.
My advice would be to look at reducing our overall energy demand.
This would require switching to devices with lower energy consumption (e.g. 5W bulbs instead of 60W bulbs) and also changing our behaviour around the use of energy (e.g. leaving a television or light bulb on when no one is around). This is a more practicable step because at the moment there’s no energy source, able to provide large amounts of energy reliably, that is cheaper than the electricity from the grid, or use of LPG or CNG.