• Peer-Reviewed
Environmental Science & Technology · 2010

Land Use Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Conventional Oil Production and Oil Sands

Sonia Yeh, Sarah M. Jordaan, Adam R. Brandt, Merritt R. Turetsky, Sabrina Spatari, David W Keith

Debates surrounding the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from land use of biofuels production have created a need to quantify the relative land use GHG intensity of fossil fuels. When contrasting land use GHG intensity of fossil fuel and biofuel production, it is the energy yield that greatly distinguishes the two. Although emissions released from land disturbed by fossil fuels can be comparable or higher than biofuels, the energy yield of oil production is typically 2-3 orders of magnitude higher, (0.33-2.6, 0.61-1.2, and 2.2-5.1 PJ/ha) for conventional oil production, oil sands surface mining, and in situ production, respectively). We found that land use contributes small portions of GHGs to lifecycle emissions of California crude and in situ oil sands production (<0.4% or <0.4 gCO₂e/MJ crude refinery feedstock) and small to modest portions for Alberta conventional oil (0.1-4% or 0.1-3.4 gCO₂e/MJ) and surface mining of oilsands(0.9-11% or0.8-10.2 gCO₂e/MJ). Our estimates are based on assumptions aggregated over large spatial and temporal scales and assuming 100% reclamation. Values on finer spatial and temporal scales that are relevant to policy targets need to account for site-specific information, the baseline natural and anthropogenic disturbance.

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