Stanford’s OPGEE underestimates the carbon intensity of crude oil imports and overstates the carbon intensity of crude oil produced in California.
WASHINGTON DC (07/18/2022) – The Institute for Energy Research has released a review of Stanford University’s Oil Production Greenhouse Gas Emissions Estimator (OPGEE).
OPGEE was developed to estimate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the production, processing, and transportation of crude oil. These estimates are the basis for establishing a carbon intensity (CI) score of oil refined in California. CI is a measure of greenhouse gas emission potential from sources. CI is used by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program for determining how many deficits or credits are generated from transportation fuel combustion. The CI values from OPGEE are also cited by advocacy pieces that oppose domestic production as well as media stories and government reports.
The review shows that the OPGEE model greatly undercounts the carbon intensity of imports and overstates the carbon intensity of crude oil produced in California. The analysis outlines that OPGEE produces these inaccuracies for the following reasons:
- OPGEE ignores ACTUAL and VERIFIED data CARB possesses on the carbon intensity of California crude. When the estimates contained in the model are compared to actual data, grave overcounting of in-state emissions are found.
- OPGEE underrepresents emissions from foreign oil fields such as Ecuador and Saudi Arabia, California’s two largest sources of foreign crude.
- OPGEE greatly underestimates emissions from marine tanker traffic that brings foreign crude to California
- OPGEE ignores California’s numerous and expanding greenhouse gas emission reduction programs and the fact that California barrels are the only barrels must be compliant with the state’s cap and trade program. Imports are completely exempt.
Each of these factors individually disadvantages in-state production in favor of imports. Combined, these errors create a greatly skewed picture of the CI of California production. This means that compliance with the LCFS is easier if imported crude oil is used in preference to domestic, in-state production.
Thomas Pyle, President of the Institute for Energy Research, issued the following statement along with the new report:
“This review shows that the OPGEE model systematically undercounts the carbon intensity of imports and overstates the carbon intensity of oil produced in California. Taken together, each of these factors disadvantages in-state production in favor of imports. This review of OPGEE comes at a time when Stanford University is under scrutiny for taking funding from Saudi Arabia. In this instance, the development of such a flawed model that favors imports from that country raises questions about bias in the research.”
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