Prof. Keoleian, co-author on team that modeled well-to-refinery carbon intensity of crude oil production

Originally published: 
September, 2018

Better understanding of crude oil GHG emissions can help to quantify the benefits of alternative fuels and identify the most cost-effective opportunities for oil-sector emissions reductions.

Producing, transporting, and refining crude oil into fuels such as gasoline and diesel accounts for ∼15 to 40% of the “well-to-wheels” life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of transport fuels. Reducing emissions from petroleum production is of particular importance, as current transport fleets are almost entirely dependent on liquid petroleum products, and many uses of petroleum have limited prospects for near-term substitution (e.g., air travel).

Yet, while regulations are beginning to address petroleum sector GHG emissions, and private investors are beginning to consider climate-related risk in oil investments, such efforts have generally struggled with methodological and data challenges. First, no single method exists for measuring the carbon intensity (CI) of oils. Second, there is a lack of comprehensive geographically rich datasets that would allow evaluation and monitoring of life-cycle emissions from oils.

Professor Keoleian and coresearchers have previously worked to address the first challenge by developing open-source oil-sector CI modeling tools. In their new study, they address the second challenge by using those tools to model well-to-refinery CI of all major active oil fields globally—and to identify major drivers of these emissions.