Future Fuels and Emissions

As we begin to rely on more unconventional petroleum-based fuels, we need to ensure that future vehicle engines can meet future efficiency and emission requirements using these new fuels. Changes in the upgrading and subsequent refining of unconventional hydrocarbons may be required in order to produce a final product geared for future engine technologies that will produce significantly reduced air emissions.

CanmetENERGY researchers are examining upstream oil and natural gas air issues designed to develop capacity to detect, quantify and verifiably reduce emissions of toxic substances, criteria air contaminants (CAC) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the atmosphere. Research associated with subjects such as flaring, process inefficiencies and fugitive emissions is expanding to include oil sands and heavy oil production and upgrading technologies. Beginning with an appraisal of the impact from oil sands technologies on air quality, life cycle assessment is one tool used to direct research on more efficient and novel technology for producing transportation fuels from oil sand and heavy oil.

Focused research on hydrocarbon chemistry is critical to supplying the scientific basis for heavy oil processing technologies applied to Canadian resources and to providing fundamental understanding of fuels, which in collaboration with advanced combustion R&D, will improve air quality in the transportation sector. The research goal is to provide science and technology options for responsible development and sustainable end use of Canada’s energy resources applied to transportation and personal mobility.

World primary energy demand could grow by more than 50% from 2005 to 2030 (11 to 17 billion tonnes of oil equivalent) and 20% of that growth in demand is to meet transportation needs (International Energy Agency [IEA] World Energy Outlook 2007) (PDF, 7 MB). In parallel, this increase in energy demand means that global CO2 emissions could also increase by 57% by 2030 in the IEA Reference Scenario. Oil remains the largest single fuel in the global energy mix, with oil demand rising from 84 million barrels per day (mb/d) in 2005 to 99 mb/d by 2015 and 116 mb/d by 2030. Liquid fuels derived from oil remains the primary energy vector in global transportation.

Total Canadian petroleum production in 2005 was 2.5 mb/d with oil sands products contributing just over 1 mb/d. Canada’s dynamic oil sands industry is experiencing rapid growth with production from oil sands expected to reach over 3 mb/d by 2015 and potentially 5 mb/d by 2030. Over the same time period, Canadian conventional oil production will slowly decline. Oil sands development is directed almost entirely towards the manufacture of liquid transportation fuels for the North American market.

For further information about future transportation fuels derived from unconventional hydrocarbon sources consult the Roadmap Workshop on Nonpetroleum-based Fuels and Advanced Combustion Research (PDF, 18 MB).

Managed by CanmetENERGY at the Devon (Alberta) research centre.