Would you like to know why Canadian oil and gas activists receive so little respect from anti-oil and gas activists? It’s not because Canada’s main energy sector is kind of a lunatic in terms of measuring CO2 emissions or anything else. Instead, it often takes three approaches: focusing only on absolute emissions and ignoring the effects of economic growth and per capita measurements; skip the reality of a cold northern country; and make the perfect (utopian end) the enemy of the good.
This could be why, despite significant debates in the media and political circles about absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Canada’s oil and gas sector activities are declining Greenhouse gas emission intensity reductions that have occurred in Canada have received little attention in the industry over the past two decades.
Some background information and a necessary definition: Emission intensity is the rate of emissions of a given pollutant relative to the intensity of a given activity or industrial Production process. Examples are grams of carbon dioxide released per megajoule of energy generated, or the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions generated to gross domestic product (GDP).
Put simply, if an industry or economy is growing and its emissions are growing, this is not an immediate indication of a negative trend. It would be like looking at automobile manufacturing and claiming (if that happened) that a 20 percent increase in steel use over the past decade must mean the sector is less efficient at using steel. </ But what if the same sector produced twice as many cars, trucks and SUVs as it did ten years ago? Then the increase in steel use would indeed be proof that an industry with less (only 20 percent more steel) is doing more (100 percent more production).
This trend in CO2 emission intensity is taking place in Canada in general and in the oil and gas sector in particular. (And again we measure the intensity of CO2 emissions, not absolute emissions.)
Compare, for example, Canada’s economic growth from 2000 to 2019 with CO2 emissions and here is the record: The intensity of CO2 emissions is dramatic Decreased.
Between 2000 and 2019, Canada’s greenhouse gas emission intensity decreased by 30 percent per billion dollars of wealth, which is technically known as “megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent.” Or compare Canada to other countries with a similar measurement of CO2 emission intensity per million US dollars of GDP. Between 2000 and 2018, Canada’s greenhouse gas emission intensity fell from 996 tons of CO2e per million dollars of GDP to 445 tons, a decrease of over 55 percent.
As of 2018, Canada’s GHG emission intensity on this measurement was lower than many others energy producing and energy consuming countries like Qatar (522 tons of CO2e per million dollars of GDP), the United Arab Emirates (623 tons), Saudi Arabia (811 tons), China (843 tons), Oman (1,038 tons) and Russia with an almost three times as much high intensity of « 445 tons » like Canada with 1,193 tons of CO2e per million dollars of GDP.
Here is another comparison that refutes the notion that Canada is a laggard in reducing CO2 emissions: the per capita Emissions.
Between 2000 and 2018, Canada’s greenhouse gas emission intensity on this measurement decreased – per capita – by 14 percent.
Selected other countries showed greater reductions (some others increased en). CO2 emissions, expressed in tonnes of CO2e per capita, decreased by 22 percent in the United States, by 24 percent in the United Arab Emirates, by 12 percent in Qatar and by 28 percent in Australia.
Increased over the same period per capita emissions in Russia by 10 percent, in Saudi Arabia by 34 percent and in Oman by almost 43 percent.
Here are some relevant statistics on oil sands that are always commented on: Between 2011 and 2019, the emission intensity of Oil sands down nearly 22 percent.
Looking ahead, IHS Markit speculates that improved short-term technologies and efficiencies will reduce the GHG intensity of steam-assisted gravity drains (which accounted for 45 percent of oil sands supply in 2017) by 17 to 27 percent and a reduction in the GHG intensity of the oil sands produced by 15 to 20 percent by 2030.
This is comparable to a baseline emission forecast by BMO Capital Mark ets, which implies that the average emission intensity of oil sands could improve by at least another 17 percent by 2030.
Which industry spends the most on the environment? Oil and Gas by Mark Milke and Ven Venkatachalam
According to IHS Markit, such life cycle improvements (including emissions from production to incineration) mean these upstream intensities reduce the average steam assisted gravity drainage to two to four percent and mined tar sands would put five to seven percent of the average for crude oil refining in the United States by 2030.
Back to the example of automobile manufacturing: Whether Canada and measured by a new GDP in the billions, per capita or oil sands, the CO2- Emissions have fallen. The whole country and the oil and gas sector are already doing a lot more with a lot less CO2. Remember, the next time someone compares a growing Canada to an economically stagnant country or a country with a declining population.
Mark Milke and Lennie Kaplan work at the Canadian Energy Center, an Alberta government company that is partially fueled by carbon Tax is financed. You are the authors of Canada’s GHG Emissions Intensity Record since 2000: An Updated 2021 Analysis report.
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Why Canada’s Oil and Gas Sector Is Getting So Little Respect Added by Mark Milke on July 30, 2021View all posts by Mark Milke →
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