Category Archives: Greenhouse gas emissions

Ontario confirms it will join Quebec, California in carbon market

Repost from San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate

Ontario backs California’s carbon market

By David R. Baker, April 13, 2015 3:59 pm

Ontario plans to join California’s cap-and-trade market for reining in greenhouse gases and fighting climate change, the Canadian province’s premier, Kathleen Wynne, said Monday.

If the country’s most populous province follows through, it would greatly expand the size of the market, which California launched on its own in 2012. Quebec joined last year.

“Climate change needs to be fought around the globe, and it needs to be fought here in Canada and Ontario,” Wynne said.

Cap and trade puts a price on the greenhouse gas emissions that the vast majority of climate scientists agree are raising temperatures worldwide.

Companies in participating states and provinces must buy permits, called allowances, to pump carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the air. The number of permits available shrinks over time, reducing emissions. Companies that make deep cuts in their emissions can sell spare allowances to other businesses.        California officials always wanted other states and provinces to join the market. In 2008, six other states and four Canadian provinces (including Ontario and Quebec) agreed in principle to create a carbon market, one that could possibly expand to cover all of North America.

But one by one, California’s potential partners dropped out, and congressional efforts to create a national cap-and-trade system collapsed in 2010. California officials decided to go it alone.

Wynne gave few details Monday about Ontario’s effort. Instead, she signed an agreement with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard to   collaborate on crafting Ontario’s cap-and-trade regulations. For Ontario to join the market, officials with the California Air Resources Board would need to certify that the province’s cap-and-trade rules mesh with California’s. Gov. Jerry Brown would also have to approve.

Brown on Monday welcomed Wynne’s announcement.

“This is a bold move from the province of Ontario — and the challenge we face demands further action from other states and provinces around the world,” Brown said. “There’s a human cost to the billions of tons of carbon spewing into our atmosphere, and there must be a price on it.”

Much like California, Ontario has a significant clean-tech industry, estimated   to employ about 65,000 people.

While Quebec and now Ontario have pursued cap and trade, British Columbia chose another route to pricing greenhouse gas emissions. The province in 2008 established a carbon tax on fuels, using the revenue to cut other taxes.

Alberta, home to Canada’s controversial oil sands, also has a carbon   tax on large emitters, although critics consider it too limited and low to be effective. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last year proposed a carbon tax on heavy emitters, only to meet with resistance from both political parties.

Bay Area Air Board emissions plan draws response from Valero

Repost from The Benicia Herald
[Editor: The Benicia Herald is one of very few news outlets to cover the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s far-reaching  and highly significant December 17 initiative on refinery emissions.  The first Herald article just covered the facts, and oddly, is not posted on the Herald’s website.  As a follow-up to that story, our local newspaper either sought out comments from the Refinery or responded to Valero’s overture, not sure which.  Either way, we were treated on Christmas Eve to a front page Valero Benicia promotion of its wondrous efforts to control its emissions, and the supposedly small part Bay Area refineries play in contributing to greenhouse gases.  Note especially Valero’s resolve to “participate in any new rulemaking to ensure rules are reasonable and cost effective.”   Reasonable rules would surely protect community health and safety, no?  And according to whose costs should regulatory effectiveness be weighed?   For other reports on the Air District initiative, see The Contra Costa Times, and the Oil & Gas Journal. See also primary documents: BAAQMD 12/17 agenda, (p. 73), and  REPORT: Bay Area Refinery Emissions Reduction Strategy (PDF) .  – RS]

Emissions plan draws response from Valero

Refinery official: ‘Proud’ to contribute to better air quality
By Donna Beth Weilenman, December 24, 2014

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is hoping its new five-component strategy will reduce emissions from refineries in it geographic area.

The district’s Refinery Emissions Reduction Resolution, approved Oct. 15, sets a goal of 20-percent reduction in refinery emissions — or as much as is feasible — during the next five years.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is the regional agency responsible for protecting air quality in the nine-county Bay Area.

The announced strategy would show the Air District how to achieve that goal.

“Our new Refinery Emissions Reduction Strategy continues and reaffirms the air district’s commitment to significantly decrease harmful air pollution in our communities,” said Jack Broadbent, the district’s executive officer.

“This strategy will ensure that refineries are taking the strongest steps to cut emissions and minimize their health impacts on neighboring residents and the region as a whole.”

But refineries are just one industry that contributes to the San Francisco Bay Area’s air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, according to an official at Valero Benicia Refinery.

“By the district’s own data, Bay Area refineries make up only a small segment of overall emissions in the Bay Area air shed,” said Chris Howe, the refinery’s director of health, safety, environment and government affairs.

“These emissions have continued to decline over the last two decades,” Howe said, data which the Air District also acknowledged.

“We are proud of the significant contributions our refinery has made and will continue to make to improve air quality, especially with the installation of our flue gas scrubber in 2011,” Howe said, citing a major component of the Valero Improvement Project.

In addition, he said, “We will continue to participate in any new rulemaking to ensure rules are reasonable and cost effective when weighed against the many options the district has to regulate emissions in our air basin.”

Broadbent said the Air District’s announced strategy sets overall goals of a 20-percent reduction in both criteria pollutants from refineries and in health risks to area communities, both within the next five years. That is the strategy’s first component.

To do this, the Air District plans to investigate significant sources of those pollutants at the refineries themselves, and to examine a variety of additional pollution controls at those sources, he said. That’s the second component.

He said this would be done under the district’s focused Best Available Retrofit Control Technology program.

“Rulemaking is already under way to reduce sulfur dioxide from coke calciners and particulate matter from catalytic cracking units,” Broadbent said.

“Several other rules to reduce refinery emissions will be developed in 2015.”

The strategy’s third component would be the Air District’s approach to reduce health risks from toxic air pollution, Broadbent said.

He said it would begin with requirements to reduce toxic emissions from such refinery sources as cooling towers and coking units.

Site-wide health risks would be assessed, and sources for further emissions controls would be identified, with an eye toward health benefits, he said.

A fourth component would be evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions at the refineries and their reductions as a result of the cap-and-trade system put in place under Assembly Bill 32.

That bill, signed into law Sept. 27, 2006, requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop regulations and market mechanisms to reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020.

CARB adopted a cap-and-trade program Dec. 17, 2010, allowing some emitters to buy credits at quarterly auctions for additional emissions.

Under the Air District’s strategy, refinery performance would be compared to third-party standards for best practices, with analysis of potential further opportunities for reductions, Broadbent said.

The fifth component concerns continuous improvement in emission reductions, for which refinery operators would be required on a periodic basis to evaluate the sources of most of their emissions to determine if more controls are needed.

Broadbent said the Air District would develop its package of rules in the coming year, and would be working with members of the public as well as refinery industry representatives to make any modifications in the proposed rules and to use the strategy to reach those stated goals.

In addition, the Air District will prepare its Petroleum Refining Emissions Tracking rule that requires updated health risk assessments, additional fence-line and neighborhood monitoring capacity and the compiling of an annual emissions inventory.

Simultaneously, the Air District will write a companion rule to set emissions thresholds and mitigate potential increases at refineries, Broadbent said.

Those rules are expected to be sent to the Air District’s board for adoption in 2015.

The San Francisco Bay Area’s five major oil refineries, including Valero Benicia Refinery, produce air pollution and greenhouse gases in the region, Broadbent said, and “these are already subject to more than 20 specific Air District regulations and programs, and their overall emissions have been steadily decreasing.”

The Air District’s website is www.baaqmd.gov.

Industry perspective: BAAQMD advances plan to reduce refinery emissions

Repost from Oil & Gas Journal
[Editor: Good summary of details in the BAAQMD’s Dec. 17 vote.  See also primary documents: BAAQMD 12/17 agenda, (p. 73), and  REPORT: Bay Area Refinery Emissions Reduction Strategy (PDF)  – RS]

California Bay Area advances plan for enhanced refinery regulations

By Robert Brelsford, OGJ Downstream Technology Editor, 12/19/2014

California’s Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), the public agency responsible for regulating stationary sources of air pollution in the nine counties that surround San Francisco Bay, is moving forward with its plan to impose further emissions cuts on area refiners within the next 5 years.

BAAQMD’s board of directors unanimously voted on Dec. 17 to adopt the proposed emissions reduction strategy, which sets a goal of reducing refinery emissions by 20%, or as much as feasible, by 2020.

Adoption of the heightened emissions-control strategy follows BAAQMD’s October resolution (OGJ Online, Oct. 21, 2014) directing its staff to determine the best way to decrease emissions from area refineries by evaluating a range of approaches against a variety of factors such as reductions of “criteria pollutants” (pollutants for which air quality standards have been established), toxics,  and greenhouse gases (GHGs), as well as impacts on neighboring communities, the agency said in a statement.

“Our new refinery emissions reduction strategy continues and reaffirms [BAAQMD’s] commitment to significantly decrease harmful air pollution in our communities,” said Jack Broadbent, BAAQMD’s executive officer.

“This strategy will ensure that refineries are taking the strongest steps to cut emissions and minimize their health impacts on neighboring residents and the region as a whole,” according to Broadbent.

Implementation of the emissions reduction strategy will involve ongoing work with community and industry participants during 2015 to develop and refine a package of proposed associated rules, BAAQMD said.

As part of the approved strategy, the agency said it will continue preparation of its proposed Petroleum Refining Emissions Tracking Rule (PRET), which would require refiners to provide updated health risk assessments (HRAs), install additional fence-line and neighborhood monitoring capacity, and compile annual emission inventories.

Preparation of a “companion rule” to PRET also remains under way, according to BAAQMD.

Earlier billed by the industry as another iteration of the “baseline rule” removed from a previous draft version of PRET amid a series of legal challenges under California law, the proposed “companion rule” would set emissions thresholds as well as mitigate potential emissions increases from area refineries.

The agency plans to present a final set of proposed rules to BAAQMD’s board of directors sometime in 2015.

While Bay Area’s five refiners plan to continue actively collaborating with BAAQMD on its emissions-reduction strategy, the agency’s goals may be a bit too ambitious within the proposed timeframe, according to the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA).

“The Bay Area refineries will constructively participate in the strategy’s rule making,” Guy Bjerke, WSPA’s Bay Area region manager, told OGJ.

“Our main concern with the strategy is the 20% reduction by 2020 goal which, given historic reductions over the past 10 years, are likely unachievable and impractical in just 5 years,” Bjerke said.

BAAQMD’s proposed strategy

To achieve its overall goal of a 20% emissions reduction from refineries alongside a 20% reduction in health risks to local communities over the next 5 years, the proposed strategy includes the following components:

• Reduction of criteria pollutants. Under a focused best available retrofit control technology (BARCT) program, BAAQMD will investigate  significant sources at refineries and pursue a variety of additional pollution controls at these sources. Rulemaking is already underway to reduce sulfur dioxide from coke calciners and particulate matter from catalytic cracking units. Several other rules to reduce refinery emissions also will be developed in 2015.

• Reduction of health risks from toxic air pollution. This approach will begin with requirements to reduce toxic emissions from key refinery sources such as cooling towers and coking units. The focused toxics approach will also include site-wide HRAs and the identification of sources for further emission controls, using health benefits as an important evaluative tool.

• Evaluation of GHG emissions. Under this approach, BAAQMD would track emission reductions at refineries incurred as a result of the cap-and-trade system under California’s AB 32 climate law, which requires the state to reduce its GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Refinery performance would be compared to third-party standards for best practices, with analysis of potential further opportunities for reductions.

• Continuous improvement. To ensure continuous improvement in emission reductions, refiners will be required to periodically evaluate the sources of the majority of their emissions in order to determine if additional pollution controls are needed.

BAAQMD previously acknowledged that overall emissions from the region’s five refineries, which already are subject to more than 20 specific agency regulations and programs, have been steadily decreasing.

Columbia University study: the U.S. can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050

Repost from The Earth Institute, Columbia University

New Report Shows How U.S. Can Slash Greenhouse Emissions

Researchers Map Low-Carbon Investments and Policy Changes
2014-11-20

A new report shows how the United States can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, using existing or near-commercial technologies. The 80 percent reduction by 2050 (“80 by 50”) is a long-standing goal of the Obama administration, in line with the global commitment to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.  The new report, issued by the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP), comes on the heels of the historic climate agreement last week between the United States and China, in which the U.S. government reiterated the 80 by 50 goal.

“This US Deep Decarbonization Pathways Report shows that an 80 percent reduction of emissions by 2050 is fully feasible, and indeed can be achieved with many alternative approaches. This reports shows how to do it,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.  “I believe that the report provides a solid basis for negotiating a strong climate treaty in Paris in December 2015.“

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), and San Francisco-based consulting firm Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc. (E3) authored the report as part of the DDPP.  The DDPP is led by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the French Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations.

“This report shows it is feasible to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 2050 without requiring early retirement of infrastructure,” said Jim Williams, chief scientist at E3 and lead author on the report. “Moreover, the economic assumptions in this analysis were intentionally conservative, and the results demonstrate that even then deep decarbonization is not prohibitively expensive.”

The study analyzed four different low-carbon scenarios covering different energy saving measures, fuel switching, and four types of decarbonized electricity: renewable energy, nuclear energy, fossil fuel with carbon capture and storage, and a mixed case. The scenarios achieved reductions of 83% below 2005 levels, and 80% below 1990 levels.

“All four scenarios we tested assumed economic growth,” said Margaret Torn, senior scientist and co-head of the Climate and Carbon Sciences Program at Berkeley Lab, faculty in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, and coauthor of the DDPP report. “All of our scenarios deliver the energy services that strong economic growth demands.”

The report finds that the net costs would be on the order of 1% of gross domestic product per year. But the report said that included a wide uncertainty range, from -0.2% to +1.8% of a forecast GDP of $40 trillion, due to uncertainty about consumption levels, technology costs and fossil fuel prices nearly 40 years into the future. The researchers assumed lifestyles similar to those today, and extrapolated technology costs based on present expectations.

“If you bet on America’s ability to develop and commercialize new technologies, then the net cost of transforming the energy system could be very low, even negative, when you take fuel savings into account,” said Williams. “And that is not counting the potential economic benefits of a low-carbon energy system for climate change and public health.”

The report suggests that a multifaceted technology approach is needed to meet the greenhouse gas reduction target. Buildings, transportation and industry need to increase energy efficiency. This includes building structures with smart materials and energy-efficient designs, and fueling vehicles with electricity generated from sources including wind, solar, or nuclear, as opposed to coal.

“One important conclusion is that investment opportunities in clean technologies will arise during the natural rollover and replacement of infrastructure,” said Williams. “The plan calls for non-disruptive, sustained infrastructure transitions that can deeply decarbonize the U.S. by 2050, and enhance its competitive position in the process.”

The U.S. DDPP Report is one of 15 DDPP country studies that are part of the global project. It aims to show practical pathways to deep decarbonization consistent with the globally agreed 2-degree Celsius upper limit on warming to reduce the likelihood of dangerous climate change.