News Release

Release Date: November 22, 2016

NETL Researchers Publish Article Describing New Greenhouse Gas Baseline for Petroleum-Based Transportation Fuels


Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), along with experts at Stanford University and the University of Calgary, are the authors of an article to be published this month in Environmental Science & Technology that describes a new life cycle greenhouse gas baseline for petroleum-based transportation fuels consumed in the United States in 2014.

The results described in the article could have implications for the way fuel decisions are made by the U.S. Government. The new baseline could lead to potential challenges with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires Federal agencies to purchase alternative fuels only if their life cycle greenhouse gas emissions are less than those of conventionally produced petroleum-derived fuels.

The Environmental Science & Technology article describes the project as the first life cycle greenhouse gas profile for gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel using 100 percent open-source modeling platforms. Open-source projects embrace principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, transparency, and community-oriented development with open access to those who use it. The NETL study used engineering-based, open-source models, combined with publicly available data, to calculate a set of baseline results for fuels consumed in 2014.

The work built upon a similar baseline study conducted by NETL 2008 that conducted a “well-to-wheels” greenhouse gas analysis of petroleum-based transportation fuels consumed in the United States in 2005. The most recent work reflects changes both in the modeling platforms and in the U.S. petroleum sector.

The article also provides a forecast for future petroleum-based greenhouse gas emissions through 2040 based on three scenarios described by DOE’s Energy Information Agency in their publication 2015 Annual Energy Outlook. A range of possible emissions resulted, with gasoline showing anywhere between a 2.1 percent increase and a 1.4 percent decrease in 2040.

The new analysis was conducted by NETL’s Systems Engineering & Analyses Group, which focuses on the discovery, design, and operation of energy systems from systematic decision-making techniques. NETL is working to accelerate deployment of these systems while ensuring the most efficient use of resources and technologies.

Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T) is an authoritative source of information for professionals in a wide range of environmental disciplines. The journal combines magazine and research sections and is published both in print and online. The paper may be accessed here. Other life cycle analysis work performed by NETL can be found here.