Caution needed with new greenhouse gas emission standards

Jul 13, 2012

Policy makers need to be cautious in setting new 'low-carbon' standards for greenhouse gas emissions for oil sands-derived fuels as well as fuels from conventional crude oils University of Calgary and University of Toronto researchers say in a paper published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The researchers, using for the first time confidential data from actual oil sands operations, did a 'well-to-wheel' lifecycle analysis of from transportation fuels produced by Alberta oil sands operations compared with conventional crude oils.

They found that lifecycle (GHG) emissions vary widely across both actual surface mining and in situ oil sands operations and conventional crude cases reported in the scientific literature, depending on individual project operating conditions, technology used and other factors.

"Our study suggests it is not productive to get bogged down in a debate over whether fuels derived from the oil sands emit five per cent or 20 per cent more GHG emissions than fuels produced from conventional oils," says Joule Bergerson, who led the University of Calgary group for the study, with Heather MacLean who led the University of Toronto group.

"We need to focus instead on finding a transparent, consistent and reliable way of accounting for and reporting well-to-wheel greenhouse across the industry and the entire economy."

The research team developed a new model called GHOST (GreenHouse gas emissions of current Oil Sands Technologies), which accounted for the 'upstream' GHG emissions associated with the recovery, extraction, dilution, transportation and upgrading of bitumen. This data was combined with information in the scientific literature on 'downstream' emissions from refining, fuel delivery, vehicle refueling and vehicle use, to arrive at the comprehensive lifecycle analysis.

The team's findings overall supported the widespread perception that the production of transportation fuels from the oil sands is more GHG-intensive than production of fuels from conventional crude oil. However, the findings also show that some lower-emitting oil sands operations actually can outperform higher-emitting conventional crude cases in terms of GHG emissions intensity (the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per barrel of fuel produced).

"The key message here is that there are large, and overlapping, ranges of potential well-to-wheel GHG emissions performance of both oil sands and conventional crudes. Therefore, ranges rather than point estimates should be utilized to represent this performance," says Bergerson, an assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering in the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy and the Schulich School of Engineering.

Policies such as low-carbon fuel standards and a focus on reducing oil sands operating emissions alone is an initial step but will not be sufficient to achieve meaningful long-term environmental policy goals, the researchers said in the study.

Vehicle operation, say researchers, made up 64 to 74 per cent of the wheel-to-well GHG emissions in the oil sands operations. California's Low Carbon Standard, which requires a reduction in the state's transportation fuels of at least 10 per cent by 2020, "will be complicated by the overlapping ranges of emissions associated with oil sands and conventional crude pathways."

The wide range of potential emissions intensities for oil sands and conventional crude oils suggests that treating all , whether surfacing mining or in situ, or all conventional crudes as having the same level of may lead to "unintended consequences," say researchers.

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Caliban
3.7 / 5 (6) Jul 13, 2012
The wide range of potential emissions intensities for oil sands and conventional crude oils suggests that treating all oil sands, whether surfacing mining or in situ, or all conventional crudes as having the same level of emissions may lead to "unintended consequences," say researchers.


"Unintended consequences" of course being code for "reduced profitability". And we certainly wouldn't want any consideration of the 'external costs" of Tar Sands-derived or any other fossil fuels to stand in the way of unimpeded profit-taking, now would we?
NotParker
2.7 / 5 (12) Jul 13, 2012
The wide range of potential emissions intensities for oil sands and conventional crude oils suggests that treating all oil sands, whether surfacing mining or in situ, or all conventional crudes as having the same level of emissions may lead to "unintended consequences," say researchers.


"Unintended consequences" of course being code for "reduced profitability". And we certainly wouldn't want any consideration of the 'external costs" of Tar Sands-derived or any other fossil fuels to stand in the way of unimpeded profit-taking, now would we?


I think to be fair, and to prevent hypocrisy, all greenies should pay triple for fossil fuels.

We can call it a moron tax.

Those of us who aren't morons should pay less.
rwinners
1 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2012
"Please... PRETTY PLEASE.... don't regulate us out of business."
rwinners
2 / 5 (4) Jul 13, 2012
Actually, Not.... you grey sky people should die earlier .. if all things were truly equal and fair.
Howhot
3.2 / 5 (9) Jul 13, 2012
Normally moron tax = Darwin Tax. It really effects those that tend to follow darwin's evolution on the loosing side. Noparks qualifies as one.

Howhot
3.7 / 5 (6) Jul 13, 2012
...there are large, and overlapping, ranges of potential well-to-wheel GHG emissions performance of both oil sands and...


Bottom line is that the oil industry doesn't know well-to-wheel GHG emissions so oil-sand doesn't have anything to base data on or compare to. At least they asked the question.
eachus
3.8 / 5 (5) Jul 14, 2012
Bottom line is that the oil industry doesn't know well-to-wheel GHG emissions so oil-sand doesn't have anything to base data on or compare to. At least they asked the question.


No, the bottom line is that oil sands vary in carbon content (and energy per gallon). In addition costs to extract the bitumen from the sands vary widely, whether measured in dollars or BTUs.

On average gasoline made from oil sands results in more CO2 emissions, just as fracking results, on average in a lower carbon footprint. But legislating based on averages (or one size fits all) is always a bad idea. This is just another example of it.
Pressure2
3.4 / 5 (5) Jul 14, 2012

Quote NP
"I think to be fair, and to prevent hypocrisy, all greenies should pay triple for fossil fuels.

We can call it a moron tax.

Those of us who aren't morons should pay less. "

With a statement like that you just proved yourself what you are calling the greenies.

It's pay NOW or pay LATER. So you are willing to roost your own grandchildren, EH!
NotParker
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 14, 2012

Quote NP
"I think to be fair, and to prevent hypocrisy, all greenies should pay triple for fossil fuels.

We can call it a moron tax.

Those of us who aren't morons should pay less.
"

With a statement like that you just proved yourself what you are calling the greenies.

It's pay NOW or pay LATER. So you are willing to roost your own grandchildren, EH!


Despite cherry picking and manipulation, the GAT is lower than 10 years ago.

And still lower than the MWP and Roman Optimum.

http://phys.org/n...ars.html

However, I agree that cities are quite warm due to UHI and if people continue to cluster in cities they will get roosted.
Pressure2
4.2 / 5 (5) Jul 14, 2012
Parker the link below show quite distinctly the correlation between CO2 and global temperature over the last 400,000 years.

Notice how CO2 has been spiking in recent years, in the extreme left top chart. Where do you think the temperature will be in a few decades? Very likely it will be spiking also.

Em - rooster grandchildren - who knows they may be tasty.

http://www.geocra...yrs.html
jerryd
5 / 5 (2) Jul 15, 2012

The moron are those who say there is no GW from GHG's.

Next one has to include refining especially in oilsands.shale cases as it's far worse than refining oil as closer to coal than oil.

I drive my EV at 10% of the energy needed by a similar ICE/fueled car and overall costs are 25% of an ICE. So by using low tech EV's that cost less than ICE's to make, especially fueled by RE, will over time cut the neeed for such nasty fuels.

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