oil pipeline

RMI Releases Pioneering Insights on Emissions Footprint of Global Oil Refining and Petrochemical Industries

RMI reveals true climate impact of oil and gas industry’s supply chain emissions in a new report.


Boulder, CO – September 21, 2022

RMI today unveils a report disclosing the true state of oil refining and petrochemical emissions. Previously this information was available almost exclusively through companies’ self-reported data, which in some cases are much lower than RMI’s independent emissions estimates.

The Emissions Out the Gate report, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, gives industry leaders and policymakers access to more accurate data, enabling them to take informed next steps in reducing the climate impacts of an industry that accounts for roughly 6 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States alone, the refining and petrochemical industries emit as much climate-warming pollution every year as 100 coal-fired power plants.

“Taking the urgent action needed to reduce the climate impacts of oil refining and petrochemicals requires a clear understanding of where those emissions are coming from in the supply chain — and what steps can be taken now to cut those numbers dramatically,” said TJ Kirk of RMI and an author of the report.

The report shares key insights on the current emissions and projected climate impact of these industries if expected growth continues:

  • RMI estimates that annual emissions from the global refining industry were equivalent to 1.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2019. The United States emitted an estimated 257 million tons — about 18 percent of global annual refining emissions. This US estimate is 29 percent higher than the self-reported emissions data from industry to the EPA, with a dramatic discrepancy in methane emissions specifically.
  • If current industry growth projections hold true, petrochemical emissions are estimated to range from 1.1 billion to 2.1 billion tons in 2050.
  • Refineries are on a trajectory to release between .07 million and .12 million tons of particulate matter by 2050 — putting local communities at risk of cancers and respiratory disease.

“RMI’s analysis is incredibly important in setting a baseline for the refining and petrochemical industries’ climate impact — and makes it clear the urgent need to move beyond the status quo of current production methods to reduce emissions and stop toxic pollution,” said Shorey Myers of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

In an upcoming Oil Refining Emissions Cut Points report, RMI’s Oil and Gas Solutions Initiative team will build upon insights from Emissions Out the Gate to provide guidance on reducing the climate impact of the industry’s supply chain by optimizing product outputs and incorporating low-carbon feedstocks and energy inputs.

Media Inquiries Please Contact:

Nick Steel, Manager – Media Relations, media@rmi.org

About RMI

RMI is an independent nonprofit founded in 1982 that transforms global energy systems through market-driven solutions to align with a 1.5°C future and secure a clean, prosperous, zero-carbon future for all. We work in the world’s most critical geographies and engage businesses, policymakers, communities, and NGOs to identify and scale energy system interventions that will cut greenhouse gas emissions at least 50 percent by 2030. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; Oakland, California; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.

More information on RMI can be found at www.rmi.org or follow us on Twitter @RockyMtnInst.