More than 14,000 miles of new oil pipelines are being developed around the world, a distance equivalent to almost twice the diameter of the Earth, a report has revealed. The projects, led by the US, Russia, China and India, are “dramatically at odds with plans to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius,” the researchers said.
The oil pumped through the pipelines would produce at least 5 billion tons of CO2 a year if completed, equivalent to the emissions of the US, the world’s second biggest polluter. About 40 percent of the pipelines are already under construction, with the rest in planning. Global carbon emissions must be reduced by 50 percent by 2030 to keep up with internationally agreed targets to limit global warming.
Developers of 6,000 miles of pipeline under construction stand to lose up to $75 billion if action on the climate crisis prevents new pipelines from being fully utilized, according to analysts at Global Energy Monitor which produced the report.
Russia, facing oil and gas boycotts from the west over the war in Ukraine and wanting to boost exports to India and China, is developing some 1,200 miles of new pipelines.
Regionally, sub-Saharan Africa is a world leader in pipeline development, with around 1,200 pipelines already under construction and around 2,700 additional miles proposed. Projects include the controversial East African crude oil pipelinethat will transport oil extracted from a national park in Uganda to an export terminal off the coast of Tanzania.
“For the governments backing these new pipelines, the report shows an almost deliberate failure to meet climate targets,” said Baird Langenbrunner of Global Energy Monitor. “Despite climate goals threatening to turn fossil fuel infrastructure into stranded assets, the world’s largest consumers of fossil fuels, led by the US and China, are doubling down on pipeline expansion.”
The oil industry enjoyed record profits in the past year, according to the report, and “is using this time of chaos and crisis to drive massive pipeline network expansions.”
UN Secretary General António Guterres told world leaders met in New York on Wednesday: “The fossil fuel industry is killing us, and leaders are out of step with their people, who are crying out for urgent climate action.”
The Guardian revealed in May that the world’s largest fossil fuel companies are planning dozens of Oil and gas “carbon bomb” projects that would drive climate beyond temperature targets with catastrophic global impacts. In May 2021, the International Energy Agency said new oil and gas fields were incompatible with the world staying within relatively safe limits of global warming.
The new report found that pipeline length under construction has more than doubled compared to Global Energy Monitor’s assessment in 2019, while proposed pipeline length has been roughly halved.
The United States is the world leader in pipeline development. “A big push to increase crude oil export capacity out of the Permian Basin [in Texas and New Mexico] along the Gulf Coast is possibly a watershed moment for the industry, which is gradually losing its social license to build new projects as the impacts of the climate crisis become more severe,” the report says.
India is the leader in pipelines under construction, including the around 1,000-mile-long Paradip Numaligarh crude oil pipeline in the northeast of the country, which is expected to come online by the end of 2024.
Russia aims to expand its oil exports along the Northern Sea Route, which is becoming more accessible as global warming melts Arctic sea ice. The proposed Vostok pipeline is also about 1,000 miles long.
Data on new pipeline capacity was only available for two-thirds of the pipelines in the report, but these would carry 30 billion barrels per day for decades if they continued to operate to the end of their typical service lives. When burned, this oil would produce 4.6 billion tons of CO2 per year. Global Energy Monitor’s analysis did not include projects that had failed to advance development in the last two years, classifying them separately as shelved.