Refining Canada’s oil sands into gasoline may speed global warming more than previously estimated after accounting for use of a waste product, which can be burned like coal.
Opening a new front in a fight to persuade President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil sands from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast, environmental groups yesterday released a study that found refining the heavy material will create 5 billion tons of petroleum coke, or petcoke, that’s used by power plants, aluminum factories and steel mills.
Compared with coal, petcoke is cheaper and releases more carbon dioxide when burned. Much of the U.S. supply is exported.
“Petcoke is the coal hiding in the tar sands,” said Lorne Stockman, research director for Oil Change International, a Washington-based advocacy group that works for a transition away from fossil fuels. Until now, “the emissions of burning petcoke has not been included in the analyses.”
Opponents of TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s 1,661-mile (2,673- kilometer) pipeline are stepping up their efforts to stop the project as the U.S. State Department completes its review of a new route in Nebraska that avoids drinking water supplies. Obama delayed* the pipeline year ago, citing concerns about water, and encouraged the company to reapply.
Stockman said he gave State Department officials a research report yesterday showing that 15 percent to 30 percent of a barrel of oil sands bitumen can end up as petcoke. A lighter crude would have less than 2 percent, he said.