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IHS Markit analysis confirms oil sands greenhouse gas intensity declined 20% in past decade

New research by IHS Markit shows that the combined greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of Canadian oil sands projects fell 20% from 2009 levels.

The new analysis shows trends remaining in line with previous IHS Markit projections that oil sands GHG intensity will decline by at least 16 – 23% by 2030 (to a level 30% below 2009).

“The latest data show that the greenhouse gas intensity of Canadian oil sands going down further, continuing a decade-long trend,” said Kevin Birn, Vice President, North American Crude Oil Markets, IHS Markit. “Ongoing efficiencies and ramping-up of new, less-intensive forms of extraction will support additional reductions though the next decade.”

The declining emissions intensity will slow the pace of absolute emissions growth in Canada, where the government has imposed a 100-megaton limit on oil sands emissions. IHS Markit estimates that oil sands are about two-thirds to the cap, about 66 megatons, in 2018.

There continues to be a wide variability in the range of emissions for different oil sands projects, spanning a range of 160 kg CO2/bbl in 2018. This means that the least GHG-intensive operation was more than four times less than the most intensive.

This extreme variability means that using the weighted average to evaluate any one oil sands project would be a misrepresentation.

“When it comes to the greenhouse gas intensity of oil sands projects, there is no one-size-fits-all. Making judgements based on an average will give you the wrong answer as it will not reflect any one operation’s actual level of emissions,” Mr Birn added. “This is important and it goes beyond just the oil sands. We are finding similar variability in other plays globally.”

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