Study says oil sands boost emissions 5-15%

Total emissions of greenhouse gases associated with Canadian oil sands exceed those related to average crude oil processed in the US by 5-15%, says a study by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, May 18 -- Total emissions of greenhouse gases associated with Canadian oil sands exceed those related to average crude oil processed in the US by 5-15%, says a study by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

The comparison covers emissions from production and processing of the raw materials as well as consumption of the oil products.

IHS CERA said it based its estimates on an 8-month study that received contributions from 37 "stakeholder organizations"—including Canadian and US government agencies, oil companies, and environmental and community groups.

It pointed out that 70-80% of total—or "wells-to-wheels"—emissions result from combustion of oil products for all sources of crude oil.

"The difference in total carbon emissions from oil sands to that of other crude oil sources occurs mainly in the extraction and processing phases—also called 'well-to-retail pump' or 'well-to-pump'," it said.

The study called Canadian oil sands "one of the most important sources of supply growth in the past decade," noting that production has increased to 1.3 million b/d at present from 600,000 b/d in 2000.

Depending on global economic conditions, oil prices, environmental regulation, and the pace of innovation, production from the Canadian oil sands will reach 2.3-6.3 million b/d by 2035, the study projected.

At the higher production rate, Canada's share of expected US oil imports would be 37%, compared with 19% in 2008.

"The environmental and efficiency challenges for oil sands are classic cases for consistent, long-term government research and development spending," said James Burkhard, study director and managing director of IHS CERA's Global Oil Group.

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