Tar sands and the Fuel Quality Directive - what is it all about?

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What it IS about: The Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) sets a 6% reduction target in the carbon intensity of transport fuels to be met by 2020. This is a technology-neutral target that leaves to the industry a range of options to meet it in the most cost-effective way. One such way is by providing alternative low-carbon fuels such as sustainable biofuels or clean electricity.

What it's NOT about: The Commission proposal to implement the FQD assigns carbon intensity to all fossil fuel feedstocks, namely: tar sands, coal-to-liquid, oil shale, gas-to-liquid and conventional oil. It does NOT discriminate between sources on the basis of geographical locations; it’s all about the carbon intensity of each fuel source. Oil shale gets a higher carbon intensity value than tar sands under this proposal. The specific ‘default value’ for tar sands is NOT just in place for Canadian oil, but for all fuels that are produced from tar sands anywhere in the world, including Venezuela, Russia, Madagascar and the US.

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Figure 1: Drivers & impacts of Europe’s biofuel policy. Transport & Environment, BirdLife Europe, Friends of the Earth Europe, European Environmental Bureau, P.2, http://www.transportenvironment.org/sites/te/files/publications/Biofuels...

Figure 2: Modified from Oil Shales of the World: Their Origin, Occurrence and Exploitation by Paul L. Russell and UNITAR Heavy Oil & Oil Sands database. http://thetyee.ca/News/2010/09/09/OilSandsWorld/

Figure 3: Stockman, L.; Petroleum Coke: the coal hiding in the tar Sands. Oil Change International, January 2013, p.8,  http://priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2013/01/OCI.Petcoke.FINALSCREEN.pdf

“Tar Sands fuels have GHG emissions of up to 49% higher than other conventional crudes”: Mui, S.; Tonachel, L.; McEnaney, B.; Shope, E; GHG emission Factors for High Carbon Intensity Crude Oils. Natural Resources Defence Council, Sept. 2010. http://docs.nrdc.org/energy/ene_10070101.asp.

“The official Commission study assumes that on average tar sands are 23% worse than conventional crude oil”: Brandt, A. R.; Upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from Canadian oil Sands as feedstock for European refineries. Department of Energy Resources Engineering, Stanford University, January 18, 2011. https://circabc.europa.eu/d/d/workspace/SpacesStore/db806977-6418-44db-a464-20267139b34d/Brandt_Oil_Sands_GHGs_Final.pdf

“Default values will save up to 19 million tonnes of GHG emissions”: De Buck, A.; Afman, M.; Kampman, B. (CE Delft); Van den Berg, J.; Otten, G. (Carbon Matters); Economic and environmental effects of the FQD on crude oil production from tar sands. Delft, May 2013, http://www.transportenvironment.org/sites/te/files/publications/2013%2005%20FQD%20environmental%20benefits%20CE%20Delft%20report.pdf

Figure 4: Partington, P.J.; Huot, M.; Oilsands, heavy crudes, and the EU fuel-quality directive. The Pembina Institute, Briefing note, March 2012, p. 5.

“It would add less than half a eurocent for a 50-litre fill-up or a maximum 1.6 eurocents per barrel of oil, but it would make the overall compliance with the target cheaper”: Kampman, B. (CE Delft); Van den Berg, J.; Otten, G. (Carbon Matters); Kroon, P. (ECN); Van Grinsven, A.; De Buck, A. (CE Delft); Oil reporting for the FQD. An assessment of effort needed and cost to oil companies. Delft, March 2012, http://www.transportenvironment.org/publications/report-administrative-burden-fuel-quality-directive

Figure 5: Stockman, L.; Petroleum Coke: the coal hiding in the tar Sands. Oil Change International. P.13.