IHS updates US oil-sands GHG comparisons

Fuels made wholly from Canadian oil-sands feedstocks emit 4-18% more greenhouse gases (GHGs) on a wells-to-tailpipe basis than those made from average crude oil refined in the US, according to IHS, Cambridge, Mass.

Oil-sands feedstocks refined in the US, usually a blend of bitumen and lighter hydrocarbons, emit GHGs at an average rate 9% higher than average crude feedstock, IHS said in an update of a 2010 study (OGJ Online, Sept. 23, 2010).

Both reports assessed the complete life cycle of oil sands extraction, processing, distribution, and combustion.

The earlier report estimated the average GHG emissions associated with oil sands products refined in the US at 6% higher than average crude processed in the country. It estimated total emissions from products wholly derived from oil sands at 5-15% higher than the average barrel.

“These results do not necessarily indicate an increase in oil sands carbon intensity since 2010 but rather a revision of the results based on new studies that have applied different modeling techniques and data,” IHS said.

The new report is based on 12 recent studies from government, academia, and industry.

It accounts for emissions that occur beyond production and refining, such as the production and processing of gas used in oil production or emissions from off-site electricity production.

“When accounting for these ‘wide-boundary’ results, the new report found that fuels produced solely from oil sands result in emissions 5-23% higher than the average crude processed in the US, with the average for oil sands products refined in the US being 12% higher than the average barrel,” IHS said.

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