Backwardation: The condition where prompt prices for a commodity are higher than the price for future delivery. This signals that the market is currently experiencing tight conditions and scrambling for prompt supplies. In other words, prices are high now but people believe prices will go down so they carry a low inventory. Contango is the situation with opposite circumstances from backwardation.
Ballast: A device that provides starting voltage and limits the current during normal operation in electrical discharge lamps (such as fluorescent lamps).
Barrel: In the petroleum industry, a barrel is 42 U.S. gallons. One barrel of oil has an energy content of 5.8 million British thermal units. It takes one barrel of oil to make enough gasoline to drive an average car from Lincoln to Sydney and back (at 18 miles per gallon over the 688–mile round trip).
Barrels Per Day Equivalent (BPD–equivalent): A unit of measure that tells how much oil would have to be burned to produce the same amount of energy.
Base (Cushion) Gas (natural gas): The volume of gas needed as a permanent inventory to maintain adequate underground storage reservoir pressures and deliverability rates throughout the withdrawal season. All native gas is included in the base gas volume.
Base Load: The minimum amount of power delivered or demanded over a given period at a constant rate.
Baseline Forecast: A prediction of future energy needs which does not take into account the likely effects of new conservation programs that have not yet been started.
Base Rate: That portion of the total electric or gas rate covering the general costs of doing business unrelated to fuel expenses.
Battery: A device that stores energy and produces electric current by chemical action.
Benzene: A type of colorless liquid hydrocarbon that can be used as a motor fuel. Its chemical symbol is C6H6.
Bi–Fuel Vehicle: A vehicle with two separate fuel systems designed to run on either fuel, using only one fuel at a time. These systems are advantageous for drivers who do not always have access to an alternative fuel refueling station. Bi–fuel systems are usually used in light–duty vehicles. One of the two fuels is typically an alternative fuel.
Bi–Gas: A process being developed as a means of making synthetic gas from coal. The synthetic gas would be intended to substitute for natural gas in meeting industrial and home energy needs.
Bioconversion: Processes that use plants or micro–organisms to change one form of energy into another. For example, an experimental process uses algae to convert solar energy into gas that could be used for fuel.
Biodiesel: A biodegradable transportation fuel for use in diesel engines that is produced through the transesterfication of organically–derived oils or fats. It may be used either as a replacement for or as a component of diesel fuel.
Biomass: Energy sources from recent–term organic (plant and animal) matter. Examples are fuelwood, waste wood, garbage and crop waste. Biomass–derived fuels result from the processing of biomass energy sources. Examples are wood byproducts (wood chips and dewatered wood liquors), pellets, briquettes, refuse–derived fuel (made from garbage), ethanol (made from crops, such as corn) and methanol (made from wood).
Biosphere: The zone at and adjacent to the earth's surface where all life exists; all living organisms of the earth.
Boiler: A closed vessel in which water is converted to pressurized steam.
Boiling Water Factor (BWR): A nuclear power unit in which water used as a coolant is allowed to boil at the core. The resulting steam may be used to drive electric turbines.
Bottled Gas: The liquefied petroleum gases propane and butane, contained under moderate pressure (about 125 pounds per square inch and 30 pounds per square inch respectively), in cylinders.
Bottoming Cycle: A means to increase the thermal efficiency of a steam electric generating system by converting some waste heat from the condenser into electricity rather than discharging all of it into the environment.
Breeder Reactor: A nuclear reactor that produces more fuel than it consumes. The breeder, invented in the United States, is used as a power source in several European countries.
British Thermal Unit (Btu): The standard measure of heat energy. It takes one Btu to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit at sea level. For example, it takes about 2,000 Btu to make a pot of coffee. One Btu is equivalent to 252 calories, 778 foot–pounds, 1055 joules, or 0.293 watthours. Note: In the abbreviation, only the B is capitalized.
Broker: A retail agent who buys and sells power. The agent may also aggregate customers and arrange for transmission, firming and other ancillary services as needed.
Brownout: A controlled power reduction in which the utility decreases the voltage on the power lines, so customers receive weaker electric current. Brownouts can be used if total power demand exceeds the maximum available supply. The typical household does not notice the difference.
Building Envelope: The assembly of exterior partitions of a building which enclose conditioned spaces, through which thermal energy may be transferred to or from the exterior, unconditioned spaces, or the ground.
Bulk Power Supply: Often this term is used interchangeably with wholesale power supply. In broader terms, it refers to the aggregate of electric generating plants, transmission lines, and related–equipment. The term may refer to those facilities within one electric utility, or within a group of utilities in which the transmission lines are interconnected.
Bunker C Fuel Oil: A very heavy substance, left over after other fuels have been distilled from crude oil. Also called No. 6 Fuel, it is used in power plants, ships and large heating installations.
Busbar: In electric utility operations, a busbar is a conductor that serves as a common connection for two or more circuits. It may be in the form of metal bars or high–tension cables.
Butane: A hydrocarbon gas found in the earth along with natural gas and oil. Butane turns into a liquid when put under pressure. It is sold as bottled gas. It is used to run heaters, stoves and motors, and to help make petrochemicals.