• How Can Different Types of Fuel Lower Emissions?

Air Monitoring

How Can Different Types of Fuel Lower Emissions?

Dec 10 2021

The generation of energy is the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the world right now. In fact, taken together, the electricity, heat and transportation industries account for a whopping 73.2% of emissions on the planet. If we are serious about addressing the root causes of global warming and climate change, something must be done.

Of course, emissions monitoring data reveals that not all fuels have the same footprint. Fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas all have different impacts on the environment due to their composition, while petrol, diesel and biofuels are similarly disparate in the volume of emissions they generate. Here’s a brief rundown of the major polluters for heating and powering properties, as well as for fuelling vehicles.

Emissions for heating and power

The following table contains the values based upon the volume of carbon dioxide produced per unit of energy generated. It should be noted that it is not intended as a true reflection of the entire life cycle of each specific fuel type, since this will depend upon a variety of factors, including the techniques used in their production, the structure and practices of supply chains and the transportation distances involved, among others.

Fuel type

Net CV (MJ/kg)

Carbon content (%)

Annual CO2 emissions to heat typical house

Coal

29

75

8,280

Oil

42

85

6,280

Natural gas

38

75

4,540

LPG

46

82

5,180

 

As you can see, coal is by far the biggest producer of CO2 emissions, despite having a lower carbon content than both oil and LPG. Of course, transitioning to renewables such as solar and wind power where possible is the ideal outcome for reducing emissions to zero. Nonetheless, it is clear that a home powered by natural gas or LPG is a preferable option than one powered by oil or coal.

Emissions for transportation

Again, the following table is an indication of how the most common fuel options for private vehicles affect their environmental performance in terms of emissions generated. The entire life cycle is not displayed once more, since there are too many variables in the equation to give a reliable estimate.

Fuel type

Net CV (MJ/kg)

Carbon content (%)

CO2 emissions on combustion (g/litre)

CO2 emissions on combustion (g/mile)

Petrol

44

87

2,328

328

Diesel

42.8

86

2,614

327

LPG (propane)

46

82

1,533

292

Bioethanol (sugar beet or wheat)

27

52

1,503

322

Bioethanol (rapeseed oil or waste vegetable oil)

37

77

2,486

338

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s clear that bioethanol made from sugar beet or wheat produces only marginally fewer emissions than from LPG, while that manufactured from rapeseed oil or waste vegetable oil actually raises emissions in comparison to all other types of fuel. Again, this only tells half the picture, since the entire life cycle and the sustainability of the fuel as it relates to carbon dioxide, friction and wear should also be factored in. What’s more, transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs) that are powered by renewable energy is the ideal outcome, but LPG or sugar beet and wheat ethanol are the next best options at the present time.

For those interested in learning more about emissions, the upcoming CEM conference is set to take place virtually this March and will provide a wealth of information on all aspects of the subject.


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