Which U.S. State Has the Highest Oil Emissions?

A pump jack operates in front of a drilling rig at sunset in an oil field in Midland, Texas U.S.

The burning of fossil fuels accounts for a large portion of the energy consumed. However, the practice is associated with emissions of carbon dioxide, which brings about the greenhouse effect. The use of renewable sources like wind and solar is an excellent alternative for energy; however, the world is still persistent in using fossil fuels. Identifying the states with the highest oil emissions is the first step to regulating gas and oil burning and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Flaring in gas and oil production is the part responsible for most of the carbon emissions. So, which U.S. state has the highest oil emissions?

Data from the US Energy Information Administration indicates that the jurisdiction with the highest carbon emission is Texas, while that with the lowest total carbon dioxide emissions is American Samoa. In addition, the state with the highest per capita oil emission is Wyoming, and the lowest is from the District of Columbia. Lastly, the only US territory with zero carbon dioxide emissions is the Northern Mariana Islands.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the US States

Carbon emission levels differ per state depending on the number of gas pipelines, power plants, factories, businesses, and homes consuming gas. In addition, the size of the state, population, climate, and the kind of fuel available also determines the amount of carbon dioxide emission.

Carbon dioxide is a colorless and odorless gas present in the natural gas composition. Carbon dioxide is vital to life on Earth. It is produced from hot springs, geysers, volcanoes, human and animal respiration, and the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Carbon dioxide is one of the gases creating the greenhouse effect. The Earth would be colder with infrared radiation as carbon dioxide keeps it warm and absorbs released radiation in the atmosphere.  

According to data collected in 2013, carbon dioxide emissions in the US totaled 5,278 million metric tons. Texas and California are the states recording the highest levels, with an emission rate of 641 million metric tons, and Ohio at 39 million metric tons. Conversely, states with the lowest emission are Vermont and Rhode Island at 5.6 million metric tons and 10 million metric tons.

From 2007-2013 carbon dioxide emission has been declining with the highest percentage recorded in Georgia at 27.32%. Other states with a decline are New Hampshire, 26.32%, and Hawaii at 25%. In contrast, states were working on lowering their carbon dioxide emission levels while others did the opposite and recorded a rise. Some of the states that recorded an increase include Idaho 6.25%, Wyoming 3.03%, Texas 2.82%, Arkansas 7.94%, and South Dakota 7.14%.

Flaring and Oil Emissions

Flaring is a common practice in gas and oil production, which involves the controlled burning of natural gas. A flare consists of a flare stack and pipes that bring in the gas to the pile. Its size and brightness are determined by the type and amount of gas in the flare stack. Power plants and gas pipelines practice flaring without pipelines as a way to get the gas to the market; hence the best alternative is burning the gas or flare.

Flaring may be done at the top of a vertical flare stack or the ground level. Over the years, there have been efforts to regulate the rate at which oil companies are flaring or stopping flaring altogether. In conjunction with the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership, the World Bank has made efforts to have companies set flaring targets to reduce the amount of carbon emissions.

The challenge of controlling flaring is that it’s undocumented and unrecorded, making accountability difficult. Modern technology has invented a way of estimating the amount of gas flared using the intensity of brightness of the flare as seen from space.

According to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) data, the volume of gas flared in 2019 was 1.48 billion cubic feet per day. With set regulations in place, the current report indicates a 32% decrease in the US flaring since 2019.

What are the Factors Causing Oil Emissions in the US States?

Oil-related carbon dioxide emissions differ from state to state depending on the different factors causing the emissions. These factors include:

Energy Intensity

The amount of energy consumed per unit per dollar of the GDP is measured to calculate the energy intensity of each state. High energy consumption is recorded in the states that tend to experience cold climates or have a large industrial base.

The states with the highest emissions based on energy intensity are Wyoming, Louisiana, and West Virginia. States that recorded the lowest levels are New York, California, North Dakota, Montana, Alabama, Connecticut, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

Industrial Emissions

Different industrial sectors use varying energy sources based on electricity generation, climate, and economic output. For instance, significant emissions were recorded from the transportation sector in Vermont, while in Hawaii, emissions were from power plants generating electricity. States using coal to generate electricity have the highest levels of oil emissions, while those recording high emissions from the transport sector use alternatives like non-carbon or low-carbon fuels in electricity generation.    

Fossil Fuel Emissions

The levels of emission between states differ because of the varying fossil fuel types. Fossil fuels are present at the Earth’s crust and emit carbon dioxide and hydrogen when burnt. These fossil fuels include coal, oil, and natural gases.

In about six states, coal emissions accounted for half the total emissions because they rely on coal for electricity generation. In about 17 states, petroleum accounted for half the emissions from the transport and industrial sectors. In states like Alaska and the District of Columbia, natural gas accounted for half of the emissions.  

Bottom Line

To reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions causing global warming and the greenhouse effect, different US states and countries are embracing carbon capture. The captured carbon dioxide is stored underground and used in Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), among other purposes. To find out more about residual oil and determine your site’s wettability, working with a professional consulting company such as Melzer Consulting is the best strategy.

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