A new carbon intensity index for different grades of crude oil is far from assembling the data to produce a full global comparison. But it’s already clear that burning the oil in a vehicle—not the quality of the raw product or the process by which it’s extracted—is the most important part of its carbon footprint.
The Global Oil-Climate Index was released in April by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Joule Bergerson of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering was one of the co-authors. The research pointed to gaps in carbon intensity data across the crude oil industry—from Nigeria, to the Eagle Ford and Bakken regions in Texas and North Dakota. “One of the more glaring insights that came out,” Bergenson told Alberta Oil Magazine, is “how much more data is provided in Canada versus other jurisdictions.”
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Bergenson said anyone concerned about the climate impact of fossil fuel production should focus on the full spectrum of products, not just Canadian tar sands/oil sands. But she also pointed to a fundamental flaw that crosses over the industry as a whole.
“What becomes very obvious when you look at something like this is that the majority of emissions—60 to 85%–come from actually burning the fuel in the vehicle,” she said. “Even if you reduced your extraction emissions to zero, these are still carbon-intensive pathways.”
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