En Route: CO2 Stories
- Alain Labastie (2011 SPE President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- October 2010
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 14 - 16
- 2010. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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President's columnThe second SPE International Conference on CO 2 Capture, Storage, and Utilization will be held 10–12 November in New Orleans. CO 2 issues are at the center of many controversies, within the general public as well as the scientific community and even the oil and gas community. These controversies may have a significant impact in our industry, so I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some personal thoughts on the subject.
It is important to make a clear distinction between facts, which are well established, and theories or interpretations, which may be subject to intense discussion. Let’s start with facts.
- CO2 concentration in the Earth atmosphere has been increasing since beginning of the industrial era, about 150 years ago. This increase is well correlated with the intensive use of fossil fuels as energy source.
- There are many substances acting as greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere, the most important being water vapour. However, only the concentration of CO2 has significantly increased in the past century.
- The oil and gas sector accounts for one-third of GHG emissions, but this is mostly due to the end users, you and me: transportation, heating of buildings, etc. The oil and gas industry itself, including E&P, refining, and distribution of petroleum-related products, accounts for only 5% of the global GHG emissions, much less than agriculture (share=14%) or deforestation (share=17%).*
This is important to remember: our industry is perceived as being responsible for a large fraction of GHG emissions, and this is not true. The end users—i.e., the general public—are responsible, and they don’t realize that.
However, many unconventional hydrocarbons that we are beginning to produce have much higher CO2 emissions per barrel, as compared to conventional light oil. For example, emissions from extra-heavy oil produced by thermal methods are 4 times higher, and even 10 times higher if we include upgrading. (This is due to steam generation and heating for upgrading.) Another example is synthetic fuels from gas-to-liquids (GTL) conversion (Fischer Tropsch process), which are 15 times higher in CO2 emissions than conventional oil.
These are facts, well established. Let’s talk now about interpretations and theories. One of the most controversial is the concept of global warming, which is creating a lot of . . . “warm” discussions. This is only a theory; apparently the data are not sufficient to establish that as a fact (I am not a climate scientist, so I don’t want to elaborate on that).
However, it is fact that there are hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers confirming the global warning concept, and not a single one, to my knowledge, stating the opposite. Again, I am talking only about peer-reviewed papers, which are supposed to give sound information.
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