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Unconventional Heavy Oil Growth and Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Environmental Science Technology, vol.49 no.14 pp.8824-8832, 25/06/2015


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Resource information:
Resource IDnduagu2015
Resource titleUnconventional Heavy Oil Growth and Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Author(s)Experience I. Nduagu, Ian D. Gates
Publication/ sourceEnvironmental Science Technology, vol.49 no.14 pp.8824-8832
Date published25/06/2015
Summary text/ abstractEnormous global reserves of unconventional heavy oil make it a significant resource for economic growth and energy security; however, its extraction faces many challenges especially on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water consumption, and recently, social acceptability. Here, we question whether it makes sense to extract and use unconventional heavy oil in spite of these externalities. We place unconventional oils (oil sands and oil shale) alongside shale gas, coal, lignite, wood and conventional oil and gas, and compare their energy intensities and life cycle GHG emissions. Our results reveal that oil shale is the most energy intensive fuel among upgraded primary fossil fuel options followed by in situ-produced bitumen from oil sands. Lignite is the most GHG intensive primary fuel followed by oil shale. Based on future world energy demand projections, we estimate that if growth of unconventional heavy oil production continues unabated, the incremental GHG emissions that results from replacing conventional oil with heavy oil would amount to 4-21 Gt-CO 2 eq GtCO 2 eq over four decades (2010 by 2050). However, prevailing socio-economic, regional and global energy politics, environmental and technological challenges may limit growth of heavy oil production and thus its GHG emissions contributions to global fossil fuel emissions may be smaller.
Library categoriesClimate Change, Extreme Energy, Extr. Energy Climate
Added to Free Range Library31/10/2016
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