fossilfuelregistry.org is an open and transparent repository of publicly available global fossil fuel production and reserves data, and future projections.
It is an initiative of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, an umbrella of NGOs, and implemented by Carbon Tracker Initiative, a London-based think tank, and Global Energy Monitor, based in San Francisco.
The Registry does not take any policy position on energy transition policy, and is neither for or against any particular market or policy mechanism to enable energy transition. It aims to be an information service to manage the remaining carbon budget, as defined by the Paris Agreement of 2015 based on the scientific analysis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the grounds that any mechanism must be based on information which is granular, as accurate as possible, and available for scrutiny in the public domain.
The Registry is based on the idea that the carbon budget cannot be effectively managed if granular data about current and potential carbon emissions are not available in public domain. The first stage of its life is therefore to collect and curate all such information in public domain, and normalise and standardise such data so that it can be compared by country, project, and company.
The second stage involves working with all relevant agencies, principally but not exclusively governments, to complete a global view of the emissions embedded in fossil fuel reserves and resources which creates a new paradigm of information. Producing country governments around the world currently have widely differing policies as regards the data needed to estimate and measure emissions from the fossil fuel industries. Some release large amounts of information around reserves and resource bases, and estimates of upstream emissions. Others maintain that many such data sets cannot be released into public domain because of business confidentiality, national security, or some other reason. The Registry seeks to promote a paradigm under which, first all data which already exist and are germane to management of the carbon budget are released into public domain, and second, to encourage countries to expand transparency by mandating additional data - notably, third party measurement of actual emissions levels, which currently remains rare.
The overarching goal is to create a world in which the dimensions and potential emissions of every single fossil fuel asset are in public domain. This is necessary (though clearly not sufficient) for any energy transition policy to be successful.
The Registry curates all data in public domain which reach a minimum level of credibility because of who has published them. Statistically speaking, by far the most significant class of sources for fossil fuel resources is governments. Next are fossil fuel producing companies filing reports to regulators in a compliance context. Occasional use is made of specialist media deemed to have reached a certain level of reputation.
It is important to note that reserves and resource data are not themselves empirical measurements, but interpretative judgements made on commercial and geological grounds. It is equally important to point out that, contrary to common perception, this is in fact the case for all reserves and resource figures, not just those published by the Registry or which exist in public domain. Although the fossil fuel industries, governments and third party investors use commercial information services which publish reserves and resource numbers for most of the fossil fuel assets in the world, such services do not provide provenance of such numbers. At best they are derived from primary actors such as governments and companies, but even then they remain reserves and resource estimates. In many cases, intelligent guesswork is used, and techniques such as interpolation and extrapolation to fill gaps in data series. Governments themselves do not typically have their own reserves or contingent resource figures except in so far as either the companies operating in their jurisdiction have each forwarded such data from their own license areas, or the government owns a national oil company which possesses such data directly because it is involved in the operational aspects of the industry.
No verified data source of fossil fuel resources therefore exists globally. This is a key feature of the current policy framework which the Registry seeks to change.
As regards data and projections of carbon emissions from fossil fuels, the Registry uses the most granular authoritative sources it can access in public domain for each asset or class of assets. At a global level, these are the conversion factors offered by the IPCC process for fossil fuel combustion (Scope 3 emissions) and a set of projections published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in January 2021 for upstream emissions of oil and gas. As more specific country- and asset-level estimates become available, they will be layered into the database to supplement or replace global level estimates.
Eventually, actual measurement of emissions, rather than different techniques of projection, may become more the norm.
The Registry deploys three techniques to deal with the uncertainties in the data:
Clear provenance: The provenance of every single number within the Registry is always accessible. While this cannot provide verification of the numbers, since no verification has been conducted at source, it gives users more context.
Multiple sourcing: Where possible, multiple sources are used for the same data, including where they diverge. This allows users to see divergences (and their sources), and offers a true representation of underlying uncertainty rather than a spurious precision which might be false.
Technical Advisory Panel A technical advisory panel has been formed, including experts with experience in these issues from all three economic sectors (public, private and civil society). It has no legal liability but advises on methodology and other technical issues. Panel members are:
In addition, full documentation and access to raw source documents is also offered on the website, enabling full external scrutiny.
Initial funding for the Registry has been provided by the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, an umbrella group of civil society activists. It is being implemented by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, and the Global Energy Monitor.
Since climate change and energy transition have become the paramount issue of our times, there is a widespread perception that agreed data allowing detailed analysis of the fossil fuel industries must already exist.
This is not the case for several reasons:
Datasets of fossil fuel reserves, resources and production are incorporated into the Registry mainly from public sources. Each significant data set is accompanied by a data documentation sheet, which provides access to the raw files and describes the normalisation process. As of January 2022 the Registry had surveyed about five billion data points to generate 450,000 records of fossil fuel production and resources across 16,000 assets worldwide.
The details of the ranges the Registry uses are laid out in the description of the Statistical Emissions Model.
Broadly speaking, carbon emissions from fossil fuel use are overwhelmingly inferred and projected, not measured directly. This inevitably creates a margin of uncertainty, which the Registry seeks to represent as faithfully as possible based on current data and methodologies. In some cases it may be that publicising the margin of uncertainty will lead to a more rigorous approach to emissions projections. As carbon pricing increases both in value per tonne and the proportion of fossil fuels which fall under some kind of carbon pricing regime (about 20% as of mid-2021), there is likely to be growing attention on the issue of empirical data around emissions.
The Registry aims to be a useful tool in management of the carbon budget. As such, potential users could be governments, international agencies, the investment community and civil society around the world.
An initial map of user stories is posted on Github.
The Registry is a public service offering which belongs to the open source community. All data and code to build the website is available under Creative Commons license BY-SA 4.0, and is hosted on Github. Core processes of the Registry are also public, such as the the Open Data Catalog, which lists data sets to be integrated into the Registry, and associated research ideas.