Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

An oil well outside Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

A comprehensive Stanford-led analysis in Science finds that Saudi Arabia's crude oil production has the lowest carbon emissions per barrel among major petro-players.

Why it matters: Upstream production (before it's refined and used in cars, etc.) accounts for 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions from global fuel combustion, the study finds, which could have ramifications for carbon pricing and other global climate policies. Saudi Aramco, which is a sponsor of the study, is expected to tout these low CO2 findings, sources say.

What they found: The study finds that Saudi crude production averages roughly 5 grams of CO2-equivalent per megajoule — which is low in part because production from their giant conventional fields involves little flaring of gas.

  • Middle Eastern producers Iran and Iraq (among others) flare more, which drives up their emissions intensity.
  • Indeed, one big takeaway from the study is that gas flaring spikes the climate damage from crude production worldwide.
  • Direct gas venting drives up emissions even more by spewing the potent greenhouse gas methane. But the analysis cites a dearth of reliable remote-sensing technology to detect it, and an accompanying summary notes that the study does not fully incorporate these emissions.
  • Saudi crude is relatively less energy-intensive to extract and process compared to some other key producers, especially heavy and unconventional sources like Venezuelan crude (which averages 20 grams of CO2) and Canadian oil sands (which average roughly 18 grams).
  • U.S crude oil production averages 11 grams, which is roughly the worldwide average, according to the detailed field-level study.

What we're hearing: The Saudis are increasingly touting the carbon footprint of their crude, according to multiple sources.

  • "This is definitely something the company [Saudi Aramco] will be highlighting," oil analyst Ellen Wald, author of the recent book "Saudi, Inc." tells me.
  • Rice University's Jim Krane, citing talks with an unnamed Saudi official, writes in a recent analysis that "Saudi Arabia will begin highlighting the low carbon intensity of its crude oil as a marketing strategy."
  • A separate source familiar with Aramco's strategy also tells me it will be a growing part of their messaging.
  • It's an effort that has already begun. In March, Aramco CEO Amin Nasser touted their "leadership" at a major energy conference in Houston.

Possible climate impact: Glen Peters, research director at Norway's CICERO Institute who was not involved in the study, notes that cutting CO2 from crude production is important because of the lack of good substitutes for oil in transportation. He says:

"Reducing flaring, avoiding heavy oil, and mitigating emissions in other fields will all help reduce global emissions, even while we consume oil."
"You could say to a degree we already knew this, but this paper has certainly upped the ante in terms of details and comprehensiveness."

What's next: The International Energy Agency is also taking a closer look at the topic.

  • A spokesperson says this year's version of their flagship World Energy Outlook report, due this fall, will include more data and analysis of upstream emissions from crude oil and natural gas production.
  • This will include "what technologies exist to reduce these [emissions], and what actions policy makers should take to help tackle them," IEA says.

Of note: Aramco was among the funders of the research, and provided access to an expensive commercial dataset, but did not influence the outcome or results, Stanford professor Adam Brandt tells Axios. Other funders are listed in this summary.

Editor's note: This story has been clarified to note that venting of natural gas is an important source of methane emissions from oil production.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Skripal poisoning suspects linked to Czech blast, as country expels 18 Russians

Combined images released by British police in 2018 of Alexander Petrov (L) and Ruslan Boshirov, who are suspected of carrying out an attack in the in the southern English city of Salisbury using Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, and also the2014 Czech depot explosion. Photo: Metropolitan Police via Getty Images

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbětice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two with the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

Marion County Forensic Services vehicles are parked at the site of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Friday. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two assault rifles believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI told news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

U.S. and China agree to take joint climate action

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry waves as he arrives at the Elysee Presidential Palace on March 10, 2021 in Paris. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s — a key goal of the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The joint communique released Saturday evening commits the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to keep the most ambitious temperature target contained in the Paris Climate Agreement viable by potentially taking additional emissions cuts prior to 2030.