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Caution needed with new greenhouse gas emission standards
Date:7/13/2012

Policy makers need to be cautious in setting new 'low-carbon' standards for greenhouse gas emissions for oil sands-derived fuels as well as fuels from conventional crude oils University of Calgary and University of Toronto researchers say in a paper published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The researchers, using for the first time confidential data from actual oil sands operations, did a 'well-to-wheel' lifecycle analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels produced by Alberta oil sands operations compared with conventional crude oils.

They found that lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions vary widely across both actual surface mining and in situ oil sands operations and conventional crude cases reported in the scientific literature, depending on individual project operating conditions, technology used and other factors.

"Our study suggests it is not productive to get bogged down in a debate over whether fuels derived from the oil sands emit five per cent or 20 per cent more GHG emissions than fuels produced from conventional oils," says Joule Bergerson, who led the University of Calgary group for the study, with Heather MacLean who led the University of Toronto group.

"We need to focus instead on finding a transparent, consistent and reliable way of accounting for and reporting well-to-wheel greenhouse gas emissions across the industry and the entire economy."

The research team developed a new model called GHOST (GreenHouse gas emissions of current Oil Sands Technologies), which accounted for the 'upstream' GHG emissions associated with the recovery, extraction, dilution, transportation and upgrading of bitumen. This data was combined with information in the scientific literature on 'downstream' emissions from refining, fuel delivery, vehicle refueling and vehicle use, to arrive at the comprehensive lifecycle analysis.

The team's findings overall supported th
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Contact: Mark Lowey
mlowey@ucalgary.ca
403-210-8659
University of Calgary
Source:Eurekalert

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