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Oil Sands Emissions Comparable to Other Crude Oils

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted July 27, 2009

Two new independent studies commissioned by the Alberta Energy Research Institute (AERI) have found that emissions from producing, transporting and refining oil sands are not significantly higher than emissions from other forms of crude oil refined in the United States. The studies found that direct greenhouse gas emissions from oil-sands derived crude oils are generally 10 percent higher, but when cogeneration is taken into consideration, the difference disappears.

Cogeneration is the use of a power source to simultaneously produce both electricity and heat. In oil sands production, the heat is used to generate steam, and excess power is either used in oil sands operations or sent to the electrical grid. By including the energy generated by oil sands production in the studies, the findings indicate that oil sands crudes can emit about the same greenhouse gas emissions due to the displacement of other energy sources that supply power to the grid.

"One of the key considerations is that emissions from the oil sands will continue to decline as new technologies continue to be field tested and commercialized," said Dr. Eddy Isaacs, executive director of AERI.

The studies were conducted by Jacobs Consultancy and TIAX LLC. The findings are contained in the "Life Cycle Analysis of North American and Imported Crude Oils," and "Comparison of North American and Imported Crude Oils Lifecycle GHG Emissions."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.