Fuel Consumption Analysis for Canadian In Situ Oil Sands Extraction
A better understanding of fuel use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from Canadian oil sands (bitumen) extraction can help to meet the global carbon budget and design effective climate policies. To date, no studies have published actual fuel use data, analyzed drivers for the decline of emission intensities (EIs) from in situ oil sands extraction, and evaluated the effectiveness of the cap and trade system in Alberta that aims to control GHG emissions for the world’s fourth largest oil production region. This study retrieved operating fuel use data from a public database—Petrinex—that contains more than 35 million records for 18 in situ oil sands extraction schemes. From 2015 to 2019, the weighted average of fuel use was 0.23 103m3/m3 undiluted bitumen. The weighted averages of fuel use for the schemes using Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) and Cyclic Steam Stimulation (CSS) were 0.20 103m3 fuel/m3 of undiluted bitumen and 0.34 103m3 fuel /m3 of undiluted bitumen, respectively. The average EIs for SAGD ranged from 0.25 metric ton (t) CO2e/m3 to 0.98 t CO2e/m3, and the average EIs for CSS ranged from 0.61 t CO2e/m3 to 1.18 t CO2e/m3. In addition, the study pointed out that production ramping up and maturity of reservoirs contributed to the decline in EIs from in situ oil sands extractions. The study concluded that the current Alberta cap and trade system is not effective and provides minimal incentive for industries with rapid growths to reduce emissions. Significant production increases drove down operations’ EIs and subsequently generated emission credits when compared to the baseline EIs that were established using their historical production and emission data. Some operations were rewarded for emission credits because of production increases, rather than actual emission reductions.