Friday, July 24, 2009

New oil sands emissions studies not enough to dissuade opposition

Two independent studies have found direct emissions from producing, transporting and refining oil sands crude are in the same range as those of the other crudes refined in the US.

The Life-Cycle Analysis of North American and Imported Crude Oils is based on two independent studies that comprise the first robust comparison of domestic, imported and oil sands crude processes in US refineries. The research, conducted over the past year by US-based consulting companies Jacobs Consultancy and TIAX LLC, was funded by the Alberta Energy Research Institute (AERI).

The studies found that direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the oil sands are generally about 10% higher than direct emissions from other crudes in the US, but if cogeneration is taken into consideration, oil sands crudes would be similar to conventional crudes in terms of GHG emissions.

This is a positive step in providing a more scientifically-based comparison between oil-sands-derived fuels and conventional crude oil-derived fuels, especially in an era where legislation is targeting greenhouse gas emissions; however, oil sands mining is questioned not only on the basis of greenhouse gases, but its effects on the landscape.

Land use and water consumption need to be analyzed and compared as well. Perhaps then more effort can be put into tapping the oil sands' full potential.