c. 2024 pitt & sherry

Diesel emissions rising fast

The March 2016 Carbon Emissions Index (CEDEX®) Report by pitt&sherry; and The Australia Institute (TAI) indicates that electricity generation continues to be the greatest contributor to emissions, principally through black and brown coal generation, while gas generation decreased slightly and renewable sources remained relatively unchanged. The use of black coal generation has increased slightly, but has been offset by decreases in brown coal.


  • Emissions reported by CEDEX® have risen by an amount equal to 2.2% of total national emissions in the 18 months to December, 2015
  • Electricity demand continues to follow the same trends as outlined in previous reports – that is, the slide in demand that had been pronounced from 2010, ended by early 2015 and has been replaced by steady and consistent growth


  • Emissions remain relatively unchanged to end December, but are expected to rise in 2016 as government seeks alternatives to the Basslink supply through gas-fired and containerised diesel generators
  • Discussions underway for industry to curtail electricity consumption, but little encouragement for domestic users to follow suit


  •  Black coal generation has increased, but offset by a decrease in brown coal. Total coal generation is at 76% to February 2016, with very little change in the last four months
  • Renewable electricity has increased to 13.1%, in the short term caused by increased generation by Snowy Hydro, and over the longer term attributable to growth in wind generation, although that is currently at a standstill.


  •  Emissions from natural gas consumption have slightly eased compared to the previous CEDEX® Reports
  • The three Gladstone LNG plants are likely to increase Australia’s emissions in the order of 0.4 Mt CO2-e from gas consumed to power the liquefaction process, for every 100PJ of coal seam gas supplied to the plants.


  •  Road transport and mining consumption of diesel increasing at an annual compound rate of 4.6% adding 7.6 Mt CO2-e (1.4% of total emissions).

Petroleum and in particular diesel, along with electricity generation, is a significant contributor to the increased growth in emissions with road transport and mining applications producing the weight of the CO2-e emissions. Road transport encompasses truck freight, light vehicles (cars) and buses where diesel is the primary fuel. In mining the major use of diesel is for excavation and in-mine haulage equipment.  Most of the rail systems transporting minerals from mine to port are also fuelled by diesel.

Figure 1      

Figure 2                                                                                    

In Figures 1 & 2 it can be seen that the consumption of diesel via road transport and mining has risen significantly compared to other sectors such as agriculture which has remained relatively flat.

According to the most recent data published in 2015 for the preceding financial year by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, the total Australian road freight increased at an average compound rate of 2.6% p.a. between 2005-06 and 2012-13.  By contrast, road transport diesel consumption shown in Figure 2 grew by an average annual compound rate of 4.6% over the same period.  Even if it is assumed that there was no increase in road freight efficiency over this period, the difference indicates a major shift from petrol to diesel as a fuel for light vehicles.  The mining industry has contributed some 49% of diesel consumption, increasing in the order of 125% since 2008.

Dr Hugh Saddler, Senior Principal – Energy Strategies at pitt&sherry, said that “The shift by new car purchasers to diesel engines in recent years has certainly played a part in emissions reduction, but the increased number of vehicles may have offset that advantage.

“In terms of freight transport, the use of rail for moving some of the goods currently transported by road would significantly reduce the emissions created by trucks. On a per tonnage and kilometre measure, the amount of diesel emissions via rail would be significantly lower than for the same tonnage and distance using trucks.”

According to Matt Hyatt, Group Executive –Victoria of pitt&sherry “The data clearly demonstrates the trend towards diesel usage in light commercial vehicles and an increase in freight and commercial activity. It is important therefore, to look at reducing traffic congestion in the major cities. Consumers are already looking for more fuel efficient engines.

“In addition, projects such as the heavy haul rail infrastructure at Moorebank Integrated Precinct in Sydney highlights that investment in rail infrastructure will reduce the congestion and wear on our road networks.”

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