A new study published in Nature found oil fields in Saudi Arabia had among the lowest greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, a feather in the cap of the Middle Eastern kingdom as governments worldwide combat climate change.
On the other end of the ranking was Venezuela, where oil fields measured a carbon intensity six times that in Saudi Arabia.
The study, which was authored by scientists at Stanford University and the Saudi national oil company Aramco, only looked at countries which supplied a significant share of China’s oil market, the world’s largest. That left out the United States, which only began exporting crude after Congress lifted a decades long ban in late 2015.
“China has been the world’s largest growth market for energy for the past 15 years and accounted for about 43% of the world’s oil consumption growth over this period,” the report reads.
The amount of greenhouse gas emitted during the production of oil and natural gas – whether though burning fossil fuels to power equipment or natural gas leaks – is likely to be looked at increasingly in the decades ahead as government’s try to prevent the world’s average temperature from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius.
Scientists credited Saudi’s relatively low emissions rate to the natural productivity of its light oil fields and the low incidence of natural gas flaring in the kingdom – a technique that puts the powerful greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere.
In Venezuela, on the other hand, the use of “steam flooding” to increase oil flow rates from its heavy crude fields resulted in the highest carbon intensity in the world.
This article first appeared on the Houston Chronicle – an Energy Voice content partner. For more from the Houston Chronicle click here.