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Oil, gas infrastructure build-out in US Gulf to dramatically increase GHG emissions: study

Petrochemical facilities, LNG terminals, and other infrastructure being built along the US Gulf Coast in response to the ongoing US shale oil and natural gas boom, is forecast to cause the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent of 131 coal-fired power plants by 2030, according to a study released Tuesday.

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The study, which the University of Texas at Austin published, found that the ongoing build-out in oil and gas infrastructure in the US Gulf and Southwest could cause an annual total emissions impact of 541 million mt of carbon dioxide-equivalent by 2030. That is equivalent to about 8% of total US GHG emissions in 2017 and roughly equal to emissions from those 131 power plants, the study states.

While the study found about 31% of these total CO2-equivalent emissions would come from new upstream projects, roughly 98.3 million mt from gas production and 71.1 million mt from oil output, more than 46% would come from downstream projects, including 206.3 million mt, or more than 38%, from petrochemical projects. The study claims that about 23% of emissions will come from midstream projects, including compressor stations and gas-processing facilities.

While numerous studies have looked at emissions from oil- and gas-production facilities, there has been less examination on emissions from midstream and downstream projects, according to Andrew Waxman, assistant professor of economics and public policy at the university and a co-author of the study.

"Emissions from oil and gas production are well known, but our analysis finds over two-thirds of future emissions will come from midstream and downstream sources, including petrochemicals, liquefied natural gas export facilities and refineries," Waxman said in a statement. "These sources are a pretty big mountain that policymakers and climate modelers don't seem to be currently accounting for."

The study looked at projects that have been recently built, are under construction, permitted, or proposed in the Gulf region.