NOAA research is helping air quality managers understand what drives high ozone readings in the desert southwest during springtime.
A deep sea fishing rod is probably not the first tool that comes to mind when thinking about how to study air pollution in a remote inland desert, but it’s the heart of a new NOAA system that has given scientists a minute-by-minute look at how quickly the sun can convert oil and gas facility emissions to harmful ground-level ozone.
The first peer-reviewed study to quantify oil and gas emissions on Colorado's northern Front Range confirms that energy development is an important contributor to the region’s chronic ozone problem. The NOAA-CIRES research was published August 8 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.
The Bakken oil and gas field is leaking a lot of methane, but less than some satellites report, and less than the latest Environmental Protection Agency inventory for petroleum systems, according to the researchers’ calculations. That's the finding of the first field study measuring emissions of this potent greenhouse gas from the Bakken, which spans parts of North Dakota and Montana. The work was published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.
In the lonely reaches of northwestern North Dakota and across the border into Saskatchewan, the vast Bakken oil field hosts extensive activities to extract both crude oil and natural gas. Business is booming—production increased by 30 percent between May 2013 and May 2014. More than a quarter of the total gas produced from the Bakken operations can’t be processed fast enough, though, and the common industry practice is to flare it—burn it off as it is vented to the atmosphere. Jutting 30 feet upward like enormous lit matchsticks, the flares pose a new question for atmospheric scientists: What do the flares put into the air? A new NOAA-led study has produced the first direct measurements of how much black carbon—a major component of airborne particles that are commonly referred to as soot —is emitted by the Bakken flaring operations.