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Pollution and emission costs of pipeline and rail oil transport revealed

By Traroth (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Traroth (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

A new study has analysed the air pollution and greenhouse gas emission costs of various methods of crude oil transportation.

In a statement announcing the study, it’s argued that the policy debate surrounding crude oil transportation costs has emphasised accidents and spills while overlooking the environmental costs of transportation by rail and pipelines. The research has been carried out by scientists from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and University of Pittsburgh.

“We are the first to construct estimates of air pollution and greenhouse gas costs for movements of crude oil by rail and pipelines,” said Karen Clay, professor of economics and public policy in CMU’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy.

To create estimates of air pollution and greenhouse gas costs, the researchers used data on locomotive diesel consumption, pipeline pumping station electricity consumption, locomotive and power plant emission factors and the AP2 integrated assessment model, which maps county level emissions to costs for affected counties. Their estimates were also based on The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s 2015 study.

According to co-author Nicholas Muller, also from CMU, the research found “that air pollution and greenhouse gas costs of shipping crude oil by rail are much larger than spill and accident costs.”

"Air pollution and greenhouse gas costs of moving a fully loaded 100-car train of crude oil from North Dakota to the Gulf Coast are about $150,000 and from North Dakota to the East Coast are $210,000. The total estimated air pollution and greenhouse gas damages for oil shipped by rail from North Dakota in 2014 exceed $420 million," Muller continued.

The results of the study show that air pollution and greenhouse gas costs equal $1,000 per 1 million barrel-miles via rail transportation compared to just under $400 in damages from spills and accidents. For pipelines, it costs $500 in pollution and emissions costs per 1 million barrel-miles while the spills and accident costs are around $50.

According to Clay, their estimates indicate the air pollution and emissions costs of crude oil transportation are twice as high as the spill costs for rail, and eight times as large for pipelines.

The study has been published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

By Traroth (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons