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World’s Most Carbon-Intensive Oil Comes From China, Canada

China is the source of the oil with the highest carbon footprint per unit of energy produced, while Canada produces three of the top four and four of the top 10 dirtiest crudes, according to Know Your Oil, a global oil-climate index released this week by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“Oil is changing,” said lead author Deborah Gordon, director of Carnegie’s energy and climate program. “There are so many new categories of oils that are coming into the marketplace, and they’re really quite different from each other.”

Per megajoule of energy, a formulation called China Bozhong is the worst offender, followed by Canada Suncor Synthetic H, Canada Syncrude Synthetic, and Canada Suncor Synthetic A. Oils from Azerbaijan, Canada, and Norway accounted for the lowest emissions per megajoule.

“Oil companies are now hunting for crude in the Arctic Ocean and in ultra-deep deposits miles below the surface of the sea,” FuelFix reports. “The Carnegie index suggests that frontier oils often have a higher carbon price tag. One of the highest-emission crudes in Carnegie’s index is produced from the Chayvo oil field in Russia’s Sakhalin shelf, requiring wells that stretch nearly seven miles long.”

To develop the index, the Carnegie team modelled and compiled upstream, midstream, and downstream oil emissions, concluding that a formulation it called Canada Suncor Synthetic H had the highest overall carbon footprint per barrel of crude input. By that measure, “there is an over 80% difference between the highest GHG-emitting oil and the lowest,” the report notes.

Investors, oilfield operators, and policy-makers should pay close attention to the most carbon-intensive oils, Carnegie states. “Climate policy must take into account the total greenhouse gas footprint of the oil supply chain. Otherwise, market forces will continue to override climate concerns.”