Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership

CO2 Sources and Emissions

The world now produces 22 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) (6.1 billion metric tons of carbon) each year from human activity (anthropogenic CO2).1-3 This anthropogenic CO2 comes primarily from the fossil fuels used in transportation, electrical generation, heating and cooling, and in industrial activities, but can also result from activities like cement manufacturing and agricultural practices. Automobiles, airplanes, ships, trucks, farm tractors, snowmobiles, and lawnmowers are examples of mobile sources of CO2. Factories, houses, electrical plants, cement kilns, businesses, apartment buildings, and ice fishing houses could all be examples of stationary sources. Stationary sources are divided into major sources that put out over 15,000 tons of CO2 each year and minor sources that put out fewer tons. At a global level, tillage practices have released carbon stored in soils and animal agriculture has led to significant deforestation, releasing carbon and further reducing the terrestrial capacity for carbon uptake. Learn more about the place of anthropogenic CO2 in the Earth’s carbon cycle.

Locations of Major Stationary
CO2 Sources
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Together the United States and Canada generate nearly a third of the world's anthropogenic CO2. As shown in the Global CO2 Emissions diagram, comparing global output to U.S. and Canadian output, the United States produces about 5.7 billion metric tons (nearly 27%) of the global total, and Canada adds another 0.6 billion metric tons (nearly 3%).

The PCOR Partnership region generates about 40% of Canada's anthropogenic CO2 and 9% of the anthropogenic CO2 generated in the United States. The PCOR Partnership region output is equivalent to about 3.0% of the world's total anthropogenic CO2 output each year, as shown in the CO2 Emissions diagram comparing the PCOR Partnership region output to global output. Major stationary sources, shown on the map, account for about 65% of anthropogenic CO2 in the region. CO2 is also emitted by mobile sources (26%) as well as from small stationary sources (houses, stores and offices, and minor industrial sites; 9% of the total regional emissions).

Within the region, the PCOR Partnership Program is focused on finding practical ways to manage CO2 from major stationary sources. These major stationary sources, including coal-fired electricity generation facilities, energy exploration and production activities, agricultural processing, chemical production, and ethanol production, as well as various manufacturing and industrial activities, are the types of systems that would be the likely candidates for carbon capture and storage in the future. There are about 700 of these major stationary sources in the region overall.4

The majority of the region's CO2 emissions from stationary sources come from just a few source types. About two-thirds of the CO2 from major sources is emitted during electricity generation (about 40% of the total anthropogenic CO2 emissions in the region). The remaining one-third is emitted by industrial sources, petroleum refining and natural gas processing, ethanol production, and agricultural processing.

The following diagrams show emissions by major source types for the U.S. and Canadian portions of the PCOR Partnership region.
  1. (accessed April 2007); the world output of anthropogenic carbon is for fossil fuel sources in 2004.
  2. One ton of carbon combines with 2.7 tons of oxygen to make 3.7 tons of CO2. This means that 22 billion metric tons of CO2 contains about 6.1 billion tons of carbon.
  3. 1 metric ton = 2204.6 pounds (an English system ton is 2000 pounds).
  4. Stationary sources in the region releasing over nearly 600 million tons of CO2 per year (PCOR Partnership DSS, 2008 inventory).