ETL Automation with Python: A Guide to Libraries and Tools 

Learn about ETL automation with Python, including a deep dive into libraries to Extract, Transform, and Load data. Python ETL tools include ActiveBatch, Pandas, Luigi, and more.

Written by . Last Updated:

When most people think about data science and data analytics, the logistics of the process are abstract.  Foundationally, it’s about looking at data to make better decisions and predict outcomes. But how does the information move from one place to another, and how does it get transformed to make it readable for data engineers and company leaders? This is where ETL comes in. 

Why Python? Its rich ecosystem of libraries and ETL tools make it the perfect programming language for implementing automation into data workflows. 

What is Python? 

Python is a programming language renowned for its simplicity, readability, and extensive community support. Created by Guido van Rossum and released in 1991, Python has gained immense popularity for its easy-to-understand syntax and diverse applications. It offers a wide range of Python libraries and frameworks for web development, data analysis, data science, and more.

What is ETL? 

ETL stands for Extract, Transform, Load. This refers to the process of extracting data from various sources, transforming the data into a desired format, and loading it into a data warehouse or other database.

ETL processes are crucial for consolidating information from disparate data sources, cleaning and standardizing it, and making it ready for data analysis. This typically involves complex algorithms and transformations, data enrichment, and integration tasks.

ETL Pipelines 

ETL pipelines are workflows to automate the extraction, transformation, and loading of data. They define the sequence of tasks and any dependency required to process data from various sources and deliver it to a desired destination. ETL pipelines ensure data streams smoothly and methods for transformed data are applied consistently.

Using Python for ETL Processes 

Because of the programming language’s versatility, developers and data engineers can use Python to code nearly any ETL process. Including data aggregation. Python can easily handle important components of ETL operations, including indexed data structures and dictionaries. 

Using Python, null values can be filtered from data in a list using the pre-built Python math module. Additionally, there are numerous Python ETL tools available built with a balance of pure Python code and externally defined functions and libraries. 

Python ETL Tools

Python offers a plethora of ETL tools and libraries for development and automation of ETL pipelines. In addition to the Python ETL tools listed below, others include Apache Airflow, Odo, NumPy, and many more. There are a variety of free and open-source options available on GitHub and other platforms. 


Pandas is a powerful data manipulation library in Python. It provides easy-to-use data structures like DataFrames, and a wide range of functions for data cleaning, transformation, and data analysis. Pandas is widely used in ETL processes for data integration tasks and handling structured datasets.

This Python ETL tool can be used to write simple scripts, but is not the best solution for large data sets. Pandas is the perfect solution for quickly extracting data, cleaning and transforming data, and writing the data to an SQL database or CSV file.  


Luigi is a Python library for building complex and scalable ETL workflows. It provides a flexible framework for defining tasks and dependencies using a directed acyclic graph (DAG) model. Luigi simplifies the development of ETL pipelines by simplifying complex workflow management processes.

An open-source ETL tool, Luigi is great for developing complex ETL pipelines and offers features for data visualization, failure recovery, checkpoints, and offers a command-line interface. Luigi is great for simple ETL tasks like logging. 


petl is a lightweight library designed for ETL processes in Python. It offers a simple and intuitive API for working with tabular data and supports various sources including CSV files, Excel spreadsheets, databases, and more. petl is known for its ease of use and performance, making it an accessible choice for smaller, simple ETL jobs and beginners.

petl is similar to Pandas in structure and functionality, but it requires less extensive data analysis. The best use case for this Python ETL tool is teams that want the basic components of ETL for shorter jobs, but don’t need comprehensive data analytics. 


Bonobo is an open-source ETL framework that simplifies the development of ETL data pipelines in Python. It provides a lightweight and extensible framework for building reusable ETL components.

Bonobo enables users to deploy ETL pipelines quickly in parallel, and it can be used to extract data from various sources in multiple formats like CSV, JSON, XML, SQL, XLS, and more. This ETL tool can handle semi-complex schemas and new users can adopt it without learning a new API. 


PySpark is the Python API for Apache Spark, a popular big data processing framework. PySpark enables scalable and distributed data processing and offers a wide range of tools for ETL, data analytics, and machine learning. It integrates seamlessly with Python, allowing developers to leverage Spark’s capabilities with familiar Python syntax.

This solution has one of the most versatile interfaces and is designed to encourage using Python APIs to write Spark applications. PySpark supports most of Apache Spark’s features including Spark SQL, DataFrame, MLlib (Machine Learning), and Spark Core.  

Python ETL Automation with ActiveBath

ActiveBath is a comprehensive ETL automation tool that leverages the power of Python to simplify and streamline ETL processes. With ActiveBath, data engineers can design and automate complex ETL workflows using an interactive visual interface or writing Python code.

This workload automation tool supports various data sources and destinations, including SQL databases, APIs, CSV files, XML, and more. ActiveBath enables scheduling, monitoring, and error handling to support real-time and batch ETL processes.

ActiveBatch offers seamless integration across hybrid cloud environments, offering business process automation for Microsoft apps suite, business intelligence tools, ERP systems, and more. Data center integrations include Microsoft SQL, Oracle Databases, and other ETL tools.

Teams can optimize ETL processes for real-time data warehousing and orchestrate end-to-end data warehouse operations. The ActiveBatch Integrated Jobs Library offers hundreds of pre-built connectors to simplify data warehouse tasks without writing scripts. 

ETL Automation with Python Frequently Asked Questions 

How do you use Python ETL with SQL?

Python offers several libraries to  facilitate connectivity with SQL databases including SQLAlchemy and pyodbc. These libraries provide an interface to interact with databases, allowing you to extract data using SQL queries, transform it using Python code or libraries like Pandas, and load it back into the database.

ActiveBatch has a number of excellent tutorials in their resource library for optimizing workflows.

Which language is best for ETL?

The best programming language for ETL processes depends on various factors like the specific project requirements, data sources involved, the team’s expertise, and the existing technology stack. A few of the most commonly used programming languages for ETL include:

Python: Python offers powerful libraries and ETL tools like Pandas, NumPy, and SQLAlchemy for data manipulation, transformed data, and database connectivity.

SQL: SQL is well-suited for handling data extraction, transformation, and loading tasks involving SQL-based databases. It provides powerful querying capabilities, efficient data manipulation operations, and optimized database features.

Java: Java offers mature frameworks like Apache Beam, Spring Batch, and Apache Camel which provide extensive support for ETL workflows, data integration, and parallel data processing. 

Scala: Scala is a statically typed programming language that runs on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and integrates with Java. Scala is widely used with Apache Spark, a popular big data processing framework.

HTML: While HTML is not an ideal choice for ETL actions, it can be a component of the data extraction phase when working with web-based data sources. HTML parsing and web scraping techniques enable the extraction of relevant data from web pages. This data can then be processed and loaded into the desired format using ETL tools or other programming languages.

Learn about migrating to a modern workload automation solution with ActiveBatch.