Palm oil: what CO2 intensity?

Global palm oil production is running at 80MTpa in 2022, for use in food products, HPC products and bio-fuels.

However, palm oil is controversial, as it is linked to destruction of virgin rainforests, c40% of recent production has been associated with deforestation and c20% has been associated with peatland degradation.

The purpose of this data-file is to estimate the CO2 intensity of palm oil production, in tons of CO2e per ton of crude palm oil. We have aggregated data from 12 technical papers, and also constructed our own bottom up estimates.

Excluding land use impacts, we think palm oil production most likely has a CO2 intensity of 1.2 tons per ton, which is also an OK baseline estimate for responsible palm oil producers.

On a global average basis, including land use changes, we think CO2 intensity is around 8 tons per ton, assuming 40% of the land was deforested and 20% peat-degraded. The worst case scenario is a CO2 intensity of 20 tons/ton.

All of this matters for biofuels. Biodiesel sourced from the world’s average palm oil (8 tons/ton) is going to have 2.5x more emissions than burning conventional diesel. Likewise, if renewable diesel is produced from 65% used cooking oil, 35% palm oil, then again, it will have a higher CO2 impact than conventional diesel (model here).

Wood use: CO2 calculations?

This data-file calculates the CO2 intensity of wood in the energy transition. Context matters, and can sway the net climate impacts from -2 tons of emissions reductions per ton of wood through to +2 tons of incremental emissions per ton of wood.

Covered contexts include deforestation, sustainable forestry, commercial thinnings and gathering fallen biomass; which is cross-plotted against wood fuel displacing gas, wood fuel displacing coal, wood material displacing steel/cement, wood products displacing plastics and paper.

Calculations can be stress-tested in the data-file…

Decarbonization targets: what do the data tell us?

The most comprehensive and useful online resource we have found to track different companies’ net zero commitments is The database is freely downloadable under a Creative Commons license. However, we have attempted to clean it up in this data-file, including some additional fields and analytics.

The result is 630 companies that have pledged to reach some definition of ‘net zero’. Although the commitments are somewhat skewed towards easier-to-decarbonize sectors, such as financials (22%), TMT (6%), professional services (5%), retail (5%), healthcare (4%).

The average year to achieve this is 2044, although again, it varies by sector, and easer-to-decarbonize sectors tend to have sooner-dated targets.

A key question is credibility. 20% of the companies are deemed to have unclear decarbonization objectives and 45% are assessed to lack a clear plan to reach their goals (interestingly, energy companies scored above average on both of these metrics, at 16% and 27%, which squares with our own experience that some sectors are working hard to tackle CO2).

Another key question is scope. We were impressed to find that 50% of companies are including Scope 3 emissions in their decarbonization targets.

Finally, the list is substantively composed of large public companies, of which 40% are in Europe, 30% are in the US, 15% in Japan, c5% in both Australia and Canada. Clearly if you are a large public company, operating in these geographies, then investors are increasingly going to start ‘marking you down’ if you do not have clear decarbonization targets. On the other hand, private companies and emerging world companies are vastly under-represented in this data-file, which will re-awaken old fears over industrial leakage, and re-iterates the need for practical and economic decarbonization.

In the spirit of open source data, our clean-up of the database is free to download, in case it is useful for you, or helps inform your own company’s decarbonization targets.

US industrial furnaces: breakdown by size, by industry, by fuel?

The purpose of this data-file is to aggregate all available EPA disclosures into the use of CO2-emitting fuels within the manufacturing sector.

We estimate there are 1,500 industrial furnaces in the US manufacturing sector, with a mean average capacity of 60MWth, c90% powered by natural gas, and thus explaining over 3.5-4 bcfd of total US gas demand (4-5% of total).

This is an unbelievably complex and granular landscape, but we have captured as much facility-by-facility data as possible, in the back-up tabs: company-by-company, facility-by-facility, fuel-by-fuel.

We also compare the manufacturing sector with broader industrial materials, where 3,000 furnaces, averaging 130MWth capacity likely explain over 12bcfd of industrial gas demand.

CO2 capture: a cost curve?

This data-file summarizes the costs of capturing CO2 from different sources, so that it can be converted into materials, electro-fuels or sequestered.

Specifically, we have estimated the full-cycle costs (in $/ton), ultimate potential (in MTpa) and other technical considerations, linking to our other models and data-files.

The lowest-cost options are to access pure CO2 streams that are simply being vented at present, such as from the ethanol or LNG industries, but the ultimate running-room from this opportunity set is <200MTpa.

Blue hydrogen, steel and cement place next on the cost curve and could each have GTpa scale. Power stations place next, at $60-100/ton.

DAC is conceptually attractive, as the only carbon negative technology, but if all CO2 molecules in the atmosphere are fungible, it is not clear why you would pursue DAC until options lower down the cost curve had been exhausted.

Cost and CO2 intensity of home cooking technologies?

This data-file aims to capture the energy consumption, efficiency and CO2 intensity of different heating technologies in home-cooking: gas, electric, induction, microwaves, steam-cookers and food-processors.

The most important determinant of cooking’s CO2 intensity is consumer behaviour. This is the clear conclusion from comparing different numbers in different technical papers, which are summarized in the data-file.

At today’s energy costs and grid mix, gas-fired cooking yields the lowest costs, with comparable CO2 intensity to electric heat. Sometimes the electrification of cooking will increase CO2 and sometimes it will decrease.

The most efficient and best functioning cooking technology is likely to be electric induction, but it is likely 2-3x more expensive than gas and electric  hobs on a full-cycle basis.

Industrial heating technologies: an overview?

This data-file summarizes different heating technologies, predominantly electric heating technologies, used to supply process heat within industry.

The file covers convection heating, infrared radiant heat, immersion coils, electric ovens and furnaces, industrial microwaves and di-electric heating, induction and electric-arc.

In each case, we summarize the technology, typical temperature ranges, efficiencies, exergy, advantages and disadvantages.

Generally process heat is 90% efficient at converting incoming energy to heat and c40% efficient in achieving useful exergetic output from the heat.  But the ranges very broadly from 10-90%, depending on the system.

Construction materials: a screen of costs and CO2 intensities?

This data-file compares different construction materials, calculating the costs, the embedded energy and the embedded CO2 of different construction materials per m2 of wall space.

The file captures both capex and opex: i.e., the production of the materials and the ongoing costs associated with heating and cooling, as different materials have different thermal conductivities.

Covered materials include conventional construction materials such as concrete, cement, steel, brick, wood and glass, plus novel wood-based materials such as cross-laminated timber. Insulated wood and CLT are shown to have the lowest CO2 intensities and can be extremely cost competitive.

The data-file also compares different insulation materials, including their costs, thermal conductivities (W/m.K) and the resultant energy economics of insulation projects.

US Refiners: CO2 cost curve?

Which refiners are least CO2 intensive, and which refiners are most CO2 intensive? This spreadsheet answers the question, by aggregating data from 130 US refineries, based on EPA regulatory disclosures.

The full database contains a granular breakdown, facility-by-facility, showing each refinery, its owner, its capacity, throughput, utilisation rate and CO2 emissions across six categories: combustion, refining, hydrogen, CoGen, methane emissions and NOx (chart below).

Assessed companies include Aramco, BP, Chevron, Citgo, Delek, ExxonMobil, Koch, Hollyfrontier, Marathon, Phillips66, PBF, Shell and Valero.

Blue carbon: how much degradation and CO2 emission?

83% of the global carbon cycle is circulated through the ocean. Hence the term ‘Blue Carbon’ was first coined a decade ago to describe the disproportionately large CO2 contribution of coastal ecosystems.

This data-file illustrates the outsized contribution of blue carbon ecosystems in the carbon cycle, quantifying the area of land that is still covered by mangroves, tidal marshes, sea grasses and peat bogs; its typical CO2 absorption and CO2 density; and its rate of degradation, which releases CO2.

The CO2 still being lost each yearfrom these water-based eco-sytsems  is enormous, on a par with emissions from the entire EU, or India, or the entire global cement industry. Blue carbon also has extra importance combatting sea level rises. Full details are in the data-file.

Copyright: Thunder Said Energy, 2022.