In previous podcasts, we discussed the implications of moving towards nonconventional oil. Heavy oils, in abundant supply, are no doubt going to make up a large part of our oil consumption in the not so far future. They are very hard to produce, and generally require heat to mobilize the sticky, tar-like substance. The most commonly used method is steam flooding, where steam is injected into the oil reservoir. But it takes energy to create the steam, which is typically produced by burning gas. Voila: a large carbon footprint. So, how bad is the carbon footprint of such heavy oils? How much energy does it require? Is it worth it? And, perhaps most importantly, what are some of the latest ideas for cleaner production.
To understand if heavy oil indeed looks as bad as coal, we talk to Adam Brandt, a young scientist from Berkeley University about his life-cycle analyses of heavy oils.