A spark plug calorimeter is introduced for quantifying the thermal energy delivered to unreactive gas surrounding the spark gap during spark ignition. Unlike other calorimeters, which measure the small pressure rise of the gas above the relatively high gauge pressure or relative to an internal reference, the present calorimeter measured the differential rise in pressure relative to the initial pressure in the calorimeter chamber. By using a large portion of the dynamic range of the chip-based pressure sensor, a high signal to noise ratio is possible; this can be advantageous, particularly for high initial pressures. Using this calorimeter, a parametric study was carried out, measuring the thermal energy deposition in the gas and the electrical-to-thermal energy conversion efficiency over a larger range of initial pressures than has been carried out previously (1–24 bar absolute at 298 K). The spark plug and inductive ignition circuit used gave arc-type rather than glow-type discharges. A standard resistor-type automotive spark plug was tested. The effects of spark gap distance (0.3–1.5 mm) and ignition dwell time (2–6 ms) were studied for an inductive-type ignition system. It was found that energy deposition to the gas (nitrogen) and the electrical-to-thermal energy conversion efficiency increased strongly with increasing gas pressure and spark gap distance. For the same ignition hardware and operating conditions, the thermal energy delivered to the gap varied from less than 1 mJ at 1 atm pressure and a gap distance of 0.3 mm to over 25 mJ at a pressure of 24 bar and a gap distance of 1.5 mm. For gas densities that might be representative of those in an engine at the time of ignition, the electrical-to-thermal energy conversion efficiencies ranged from approximately 3% at low pressures (4 bar) and small gap (0.3 mm) to as much as 40% at the highest pressure of 24 bar and with a gap of 1.5 mm.