IHS CERA: Oil sands GHG emissions lower than perceived

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Sept. 23
-- Fuels made from Canadian oil sands have lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than many commonly cited estimates, said IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (IHS CERA) in a new analysis.

Transportation fuels produced solely from oil sands have a well-to-wheels lifecycle of GHG emissions 5-15% higher than the average crude refined in the US. That includes oil extraction, processing, distribution and eventual combustion in an engine.

But imported products—primarily synthetic crude and bitumen blends—made from oil sands has a “well-to-wheels” lifecycle GHG emissions only 6% higher than average crude refined in the US when blended with lower carbon products, said IHS CERA, the energy advisory firm. This puts oil sands on par with other US crude imports from Nigeria, Venezuela, and some oil produced in the US.

IHS CERA’s analysis was drawn from 13 publicly available government, academic, and industry studies. It said many analyses focus on oil sands GHG emissions from extraction through refining phases. “However, 70-80% of GHG emissions for all sources of crude oil, including oil sands, occur at the combustion phase. Combustion emissions do not vary for a given fuel among sources of crude oil. Oil suppliers influence only the well-to-retail pump emissions, which account for 20-30% of total lifecycle GHG emissions,” it said in the report Oil Sands, Greenhouse Gases, and US Oil Supply: Getting the Numbers Right.

“Taking into account the complete well-to-wheels lifecycle is crucial for making comparisons between sources of crude oil,” said Jim Burkhard, IHS CERA managing director, global oil, since the vast majority of emissions remain the same whether the oil comes from West Africa, Latin America, or Canada.

For many reasons, other commonly cited estimates assert the GHG intensity of oil sands is many times higher than conventional crudes, said IHS CERA analysts. Some assessments are based on comparisons of GHG emissions from only part of the lifecycle, such as only the extraction phase. Others focus solely on specific oil sands operations, such as insitu operations with higher-than-normal energy use.

“In order to have a true comparison between sources of crude oil, it is necessary to account for the industry average as a whole rather than any single operation,” said IHS CERA Director Jackie Forrest. “Certain operations have higher carbon intensity, while others are lower. You must account for the entire spectrum.”

The analysis also examines potential implications of lifecycle-based regulation on petroleum fuels, including those produced from oil sands. Lifecycle-based policies, such as the low carbon fuel standards (LCFS) adopted by California and British Columbia, present a challenge for any petroleum fuel since 70-80% of emissions occur in the vehicle engine, out of the control of the fuel producer. Therefore, LCFS compliance will require the addition of lower-carbon fuels, such as biofuels, electricity, or natural gas, to the transportation mix,” officials said.

“This is a tough mandate for all oil producers and refiners because together they account for only 20-30% of the overall carbon emissions of the fuel,” said IHS CERA Director Samantha Gross. “A full one-half to one-third of emissions from producing and refining oil would have to disappear. Bringing lower carbon alternative fuels into the mix is the only viable compliance strategy.”

According to the report, many regulations designed to reduce GHG emissions focus on the fuel economy of vehicles—the distance they can travel on a given volume of fuel. However, it said, “Lifecycle policies instead call for reductions in the well-to-wheels emissions associated with the fuel itself, meaning that improving vehicle fuel economy is not an option to achieve compliance.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council disagreed with the IHS CERA report, claiming it dilutes GHG emissions by mixing bitumen with low-carbon source liquids and leaves out “important parts” of the lifecycle impacts.

This is the second of four reports to be released this year under the IHS CERA Canadian Oil Sands Dialogue in which a variety of stakeholders participate in objective analysis and open exchange on the benefits, costs, and various choices associated with Canadian oil sands development.

Related Articles

TransCanada challenges EPA's comments on Keystone XL SEIS

02/23/2015 TransCanada Corp. responded critically to the Feb. 2 comment letter from the US Environmental Protection Agency on the US Department of State's fin...

EPA offers new, twisted excuse to stall Keystone XL

02/16/2015 Anyone puzzled by the delay in approval of the Keystone XL pipeline border crossing-running 6 years now, and counting-should read the Obama adminis...

Deloitte studies oil supply growth for 2015-16

02/16/2015 A Deloitte MarketPoint analysis suggested large-field projects, each producing more than 25,000 b/d, could bring on 1.835 million b/d in oil supply...

TransCanada challenges EPA’s comments on Keystone XL SEIS

02/11/2015 TransCanada Corp. responded to the Feb. 2 comment letter from the US Environmental Protection Agency on the US Department of State’s final suppleme...

Oil-price collapse may aggravate producing nations’ other problems

02/05/2015 The recent global crude-oil price plunge could be aggravating underlying problems in Mexico, Colombia, and other Western Hemisphere producing natio...

Alberta’s premier seeks more North American energy integration

02/05/2015 Better policy integration and cooperation will be needed for Canada, Mexico, and the US to fully realize the North American energy renaissance’s po...

EPA suggests DOS reconsider Keystone XL climate impact conclusions

02/03/2015 The US Department of State might want to reconsider its conclusions regarding potential climate impacts from the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pip...

Syncrude sees additional $260-400 million in possible budget cuts

02/02/2015 The estimate for capital expenditures has also been reduced to $451 million net to COS, which includes $104 million of remaining expenditures on ma...

Novel upgrading technology cuts diluent use, capital costs

02/02/2015 A novel bitumen upgrading process that decreases the amount of diluent required for pipeline transportation and reduces overall operating costs has...
White Papers

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...

Accurate Thermo-Fluid Simulation in Real Time Environments

The crux of any task undertaken in System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis is striking a balance between ti...

6 ways for Energy, Chemical and Oil and Gas Companies to Avert the Impending Workforce Crisis

As many as half of the skilled workers in energy, chemical and oil & gas industries are quickly he...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts


Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

When Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


The Future of US Refining

Fri, Feb 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Feb. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on the future of US refining as various forces this year conspire to pull the industry in different directions. Lower oil prices generally reduce feedstock costs, but they have also lowered refiners’ returns, as 2015 begins with refined products priced at lows not seen in years. If lower per-barrel crude prices dampen production of lighter crudes among shale plays, what will happen to refiners’ plans to export more barrels of lighter crudes? And as always, refiners will be affected by government regulations, particularly those that suppress demand, increase costs, or limit access to markets or supply.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected