Advanced Topics

Emission factors database

Emissions factor databases - or EFDBs - serve as invaluable resources for policymakers, researchers, industries, and environmentalists alike. Minimum explores the various EFDBs and how they’re calculated.

What is an emission factors database?

An emissions database is a structured collection of data that provides information on various pollutants released into the atmosphere. It contains detailed records of emissions from different activities, sectors, and sources. 

The database typically includes data on greenhouse gasses (such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) as well as other air pollutants (such as sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds). It’s a compilation of emission factors for various activities, processes, and sources that release pollutants into the atmosphere.

How are emission factors calculated?

Emission factors are generally expressed as the ratio of emissions produced per unit of activity or fuel consumption. They are derived from empirical measurements, scientific studies, or established models that take into account various parameters such as:

  • Equipment efficiency
  • Pollutant characteristics
  • Operating conditions
  • Fuel properties

Emission factors are crucial for estimating greenhouse gas emissions, air quality modeling, and developing emission inventories. The EFDB serves as a valuable resource for researchers, policymakers, and industries to estimate and manage emissions, develop emission inventories, and design effective mitigation strategies.

How are the emissions databases created?

Emissions databases are created by compiling and organizing emission data from various sources. There are several bodies that are responsible for creating the databases, including but not limited to:

  • Government bodies - such as the EIA in the US or the BEIS in the UK
  • International organizations - such as the IPCC

Data Collection

Emission data is collected from a variety of sources, including scientific studies, field measurements, industry reports, government databases, and international organizations. These sources provide data on specific activities, processes, and sources that emit pollutants into the atmosphere.


The collected data is standardized to ensure consistency and compatibility across different sources. This involves converting data to a common unit of measurement, adjusting for different reporting methodologies, and normalizing the data to a specific reference point or activity level.

Quality Assurance

The collected data undergoes a quality assurance process to ensure accuracy, completeness, and reliability. This may involve checking for data errors, inconsistencies, or outliers, and validating the data against established measurement protocols or standards.

Categorization and Classification

The emission data is categorized and classified based on relevant parameters such as sector (e.g., energy, transportation, industry), pollutant type (e.g., carbon dioxide, methane), geographical location, and emission source (e.g., power plants, vehicles, industrial processes).

Data Management

The emission data is organized and stored in a structured format suitable for database management systems. This may involve creating tables, fields, and relationships to efficiently store and retrieve the data.

Documentation and Metadata

Comprehensive documentation and metadata are created to provide information on the data sources, methodologies, assumptions, and limitations associated with the emission data.

Emission factor databases can either be publicly available or produced by an organization which charges a fee for its use. Government agencies such as BEIS in the UK, or the EPA in the US provide relatively comprehensive EFDBs for free. Other agencies such as the IEA charge for their international electricity emission factors.

Types of EFDBs

It's important to note that different emissions databases may have varying degrees of comprehensiveness, geographical coverage, and accuracy. 

Users should consider the source and methodology behind each database to ensure it aligns with their specific needs and requirements - for example, by speaking to our specialists at Minimum. There are many EFDBs produced but some core examples include:

Emission Factor Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR)

EDGAR is a widely used database that provides global emissions of greenhouse gasses and air pollutants from various sectors, including energy production, industrial processes, transportation, and agriculture.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Emissions Inventory

The EPA maintains an extensive emission factor database that covers a wide range of pollutants, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulfur dioxide (SO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulate matter (PM).

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Guidelines

The IPCC develops guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories, which include emission factors for different sectors and activities. These guidelines serve as a reference for countries to estimate and report their GHG emissions.

Energy Information Administration (EIA) Emissions Factors

The EIA, a U.S. government agency, maintains emission factor data related to energy production and consumption. It offers factors for estimating emissions associated with electricity generation, fossil fuel consumption, and other energy-related activities.

BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) Emission Factor Database

This database, maintained by the UK government, provides emission factors for various sectors and fuels within the United Kingdom. It includes emission factors for activities such as electricity generation, residential and commercial energy use, transportation, industry, and agriculture.

These examples illustrate the diverse range of emission factor databases available, each tailored to specific regions, pollutants, and sectors. They play a crucial role in understanding and addressing the environmental impact of human activities and supporting efforts to mitigate climate change and air pollution.

Minimum can help organizations to understand how their existing carbon output stacks up against these emissions databases. Our Emissions Data Platform seamlessly collects and processes emissions data from every corner of your organization and supply chain - no matter the format. Making it the ideal platform for emissions audits and all-round business intelligence. Learn more about how Minimum's Emission Data Platform can help to power you all the way to Net Zero today.