skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Harmonization of Initial Estimates of Shale Gas Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Electric Power Generation

Authors:
; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA); USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
OSTI Identifier:
1159761
DOE Contract Number:
AC36-08GO28308
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America; Journal Volume: 111; Journal Issue: 31, 5 August 2014
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 24 POWER TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION; 03 NATURAL GAS; Energy Analysis; Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis

Citation Formats

Heath, G. A., O'Donoughue, P., Arent, D. J., and Bazilian, M. Harmonization of Initial Estimates of Shale Gas Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Electric Power Generation. United States: N. p., 2014. Web. doi:10.1073/pnas.1309334111.
Heath, G. A., O'Donoughue, P., Arent, D. J., & Bazilian, M. Harmonization of Initial Estimates of Shale Gas Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Electric Power Generation. United States. doi:10.1073/pnas.1309334111.
Heath, G. A., O'Donoughue, P., Arent, D. J., and Bazilian, M. Tue . "Harmonization of Initial Estimates of Shale Gas Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Electric Power Generation". United States. doi:10.1073/pnas.1309334111.
@article{osti_1159761,
title = {Harmonization of Initial Estimates of Shale Gas Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Electric Power Generation},
author = {Heath, G. A. and O'Donoughue, P. and Arent, D. J. and Bazilian, M.},
abstractNote = {},
doi = {10.1073/pnas.1309334111},
journal = {Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America},
number = 31, 5 August 2014,
volume = 111,
place = {United States},
year = {Tue Aug 05 00:00:00 EDT 2014},
month = {Tue Aug 05 00:00:00 EDT 2014}
}
  • In reviewing life cycle assessment (LCA) literature of utility-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) systems, this analysis focuses on reducing variability and clarifying the central tendency of published estimates of life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through a meta-analytical process called harmonization. From 125 references reviewed, 10 produced 36 independent GHG emissions estimates passing screens for quality and relevance: 19 for parabolic trough (trough) technology and 17 for power tower (tower) technology. The interquartile range (IQR) of published estimates for troughs and towers were 83 and 20 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (g CO2-eq/kWh),1 respectively; median estimates were 26more » and 38 g CO2-eq/kWh for trough and tower, respectively. Two levels of harmonization were applied. Light harmonization reduced variability in published estimates by using consistent values for key parameters pertaining to plant design and performance. The IQR and median were reduced by 87% and 17%, respectively, for troughs. For towers, the IQR and median decreased by 33% and 38%, respectively. Next, five trough LCAs reporting detailed life cycle inventories were identified. The variability and central tendency of their estimates are reduced by 91% and 81%, respectively, after light harmonization. By harmonizing these five estimates to consistent values for global warming intensities of materials and expanding system boundaries to consistently include electricity and auxiliary natural gas combustion, variability is reduced by an additional 32% while central tendency increases by 8%. These harmonized values provide useful starting points for policy makers in evaluating life cycle GHG emissions from CSP projects without the requirement to conduct a full LCA for each new project.« less
  • A systematic review and harmonization of life cycle assessment (LCA) literature of nuclear electricity generation technologies was performed to determine causes of and, where possible, reduce variability in estimates of life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to clarify the state of knowledge and inform decision making. LCA literature indicates that life cycle GHG emissions from nuclear power are a fraction of traditional fossil sources, but the conditions and assumptions under which nuclear power are deployed can have a significant impact on the magnitude of life cycle GHG emissions relative to renewable technologies. Screening 274 references yielded 27 that reported 99more » independent estimates of life cycle GHG emissions from light water reactors (LWRs). The published median, interquartile range (IQR), and range for the pool of LWR life cycle GHG emission estimates were 13, 23, and 220 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (g CO{sub 2}-eq/kWh), respectively. After harmonizing methods to use consistent gross system boundaries and values for several important system parameters, the same statistics were 12, 17, and 110 g CO{sub 2}-eq/kWh, respectively. Harmonization (especially of performance characteristics) clarifies the estimation of central tendency and variability. To explain the remaining variability, several additional, highly influential consequential factors were examined using other methods. These factors included the primary source energy mix, uranium ore grade, and the selected LCA method. For example, a scenario analysis of future global nuclear development examined the effects of a decreasing global uranium market-average ore grade on life cycle GHG emissions. Depending on conditions, median life cycle GHG emissions could be 9 to 110 g CO{sub 2}-eq/kWh by 2050.« less
  • This systematic review and harmonization of life cycle assessments (LCAs) of utility-scale coal-fired electricity generation systems focuses on reducing variability and clarifying central tendencies in estimates of life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Screening 270 references for quality LCA methods, transparency, and completeness yielded 53 that reported 164 estimates of life cycle GHG emissions. These estimates for subcritical pulverized, integrated gasification combined cycle, fluidized bed, and supercritical pulverized coal combustion technologies vary from 675 to 1,689 grams CO{sub 2}-equivalent per kilowatt-hour (g CO{sub 2}-eq/kWh) (interquartile range [IQR]= 890-1,130 g CO{sub 2}-eq/kWh; median = 1,001) leading to confusion over reasonable estimatesmore » of life cycle GHG emissions from coal-fired electricity generation. By adjusting published estimates to common gross system boundaries and consistent values for key operational input parameters (most importantly, combustion carbon dioxide emission factor [CEF]), the meta-analytical process called harmonization clarifies the existing literature in ways useful for decision makers and analysts by significantly reducing the variability of estimates ({approx}53% in IQR magnitude) while maintaining a nearly constant central tendency ({approx}2.2% in median). Life cycle GHG emissions of a specific power plant depend on many factors and can differ from the generic estimates generated by the harmonization approach, but the tightness of distribution of harmonized estimates across several key coal combustion technologies implies, for some purposes, first-order estimates of life cycle GHG emissions could be based on knowledge of the technology type, coal mine emissions, thermal efficiency, and CEF alone without requiring full LCAs. Areas where new research is necessary to ensure accuracy are also discussed.« less
  • Published scientific literature contains many studies estimating life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of residential and utility-scale solar photovoltaics (PVs). Despite the volume of published work, variability in results hinders generalized conclusions. Most variance between studies can be attributed to differences in methods and assumptions. To clarify the published results for use in decision making and other analyses, we conduct a meta-analysis of existing studies, harmonizing key performance characteristics to produce more comparable and consistently derived results. Screening 397 life cycle assessments (LCAs) relevant to PVs yielded 13 studies on crystalline silicon (c-Si) that met minimum standards of quality, transparency,more » and relevance. Prior to harmonization, the median of 42 estimates of life cycle GHG emissions from those 13 LCAs was 57 grams carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (g CO{sub 2}-eq/kWh), with an interquartile range (IQR) of 44 to 73. After harmonizing key performance characteristics, irradiation of 1,700 kilowatt-hours per square meter per year (kWh/m{sup 2}/yr); system lifetime of 30 years; module efficiency of 13.2% or 14.0%, depending on module type; and a performance ratio of 0.75 or 0.80, depending on installation, the median estimate decreased to 45 and the IQR tightened to 39 to 49. The median estimate and variability were reduced compared to published estimates mainly because of higher average assumptions for irradiation and system lifetime. For the sample of studies evaluated, harmonization effectively reduced variability, providing a clearer synopsis of the life cycle GHG emissions from c-Si PVs. The literature used in this harmonization neither covers all possible c-Si installations nor represents the distribution of deployed or manufactured c-Si PVs.« less
  • A systematic review and harmonization of life cycle assessment (LCA) literature of utility-scale wind power systems was performed to determine the causes of and, where possible, reduce variability in estimates of life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Screening of approximately 240 LCAs of onshore and offshore systems yielded 72 references meeting minimum thresholds for quality, transparency, and relevance. Of those, 49 references provided 126 estimates of life cycle GHG emissions. Published estimates ranged from 1.7 to 81 grams CO{sub 2}-equivalent per kilowatt-hour (g CO{sub 2}-eq/kWh), with median and interquartile range (IQR) both at 12 g CO{sub 2}-eq/kWh. After adjusting themore » published estimates to use consistent gross system boundaries and values for several important system parameters, the total range was reduced by 47% to 3.0 to 45 g CO{sub 2}-eq/kWh and the IQR was reduced by 14% to 10 g CO{sub 2}-eq/kWh, while the median remained relatively constant (11 g CO{sub 2}-eq/kWh). Harmonization of capacity factor resulted in the largest reduction in variability in life cycle GHG emission estimates. This study concludes that the large number of previously published life cycle GHG emission estimates of wind power systems and their tight distribution suggest that new process-based LCAs of similar wind turbine technologies are unlikely to differ greatly. However, additional consequential LCAs would enhance the understanding of true life cycle GHG emissions of wind power (e.g., changes to other generators operations when wind electricity is added to the grid), although even those are unlikely to fundamentally change the comparison of wind to other electricity generation sources.« less