CO2 Sources and Emissions

Primary CO2 Sources

There are both natural and human-made (anthropogenic) sources of CO2 emissions. Natural CO2 sources include animal and plant respiration, decomposition of organic matter, forest fires, and emissions from volcanic eruptions. Anthropogenic CO2 sources come primarily from the fossil fuels used in transportation, electrical generation, heating and cooling, and industrial activities. While human CO2 emissions are much smaller than natural CO2 emissions, they have upset the global carbon cycle by adding extra CO2 to the atmosphere.1

PCOR Partnership: CO2 Sources

The world produces over 32 billion tonnes of anthropogenic CO2 each year.2 Together the United States and Canada generate about 20% of the world’s anthropogenic CO2. 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.

Sedimentary Basins The PCOR Partnership is focused on finding practical ways to manage anthropogenic CO2 from major stationary sources.Learn More 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. The remaining one-third is emitted by industrial sources, petroleum refining and natural gas processing, ethanol production, and agricultural processing.

Click to enlarge The PCOR Partnership has identified and categorized stationary sources in the region that have an annual output of greater than 100,000 tonnes of CO2. These stationary sources have a combined annual CO2 output of nearly 500 million tonnes.3

The major stationary sources shown on the map account for about 65% of anthropogenic CO2 in the region. Fortunately many of the large point sources are located in areas that are favorable for deep secure geologic CO2 storage as part of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

  1. carbon dioxide 101 (accessed March, 2018).
  2. (accessed March 2018).
  3. Peck, W.D., Buckley, T.D., Battle E.P., and Grove, M.M., compilers and creators, 2017, Plains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership atlas (5th ed., rev.): Prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory and the PCOR Partnership, Grand Forks, North Dakota, Energy & Environmental Research Center, 126 p.