Satellite Observations of Trace Gases and Their Application for Studying Air Quality Near Oil and Gas Operations
Monday, 15 December 2014: 12:05 PM
The increase in the natural gas component of the energy sector has led many state and local municipalities to begin regulation of emissions from the oil and natural gas operators with air quality (AQ) as a concern. “Top-down” measurements of trace gases in the air above wells complement "bottom-up" inventories, used by EPA and AQ stakeholders, through a more accurate depiction of regional variability of methane and other species near and downwind of oil and gas operations. Satellite observations of methane, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, ozone, and other carbon gases enhance the spatial and temporal coverage of the data needed to demonstrate any long-term impacts from shale gas development. As part of a NASA AQAST (Air Quality Applied Sciences Team) project, we are evaluating satellite measurements of trace gases in regions with oil and gas operations for their application as a “top-down” constraint. For validation of the satellite instruments’ sensitivities to emitted gases, we focus on regions where the DISCOVER-AQ (Deriving Information on Surface Conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality) campaign deployed with ground and aircraft measurements, including, Maryland (2011), California and Texas (2013), and Colorado (2014). We compare vertical distributions of methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) nearby and downwind of oil and gas wells to locate any regional differences during the campaign time periods. This allows for better characterization of the satellite observations and their limitations for application in air quality studies in similar environments. Taking advantage of current EOS-era satellites’ data records, we also analyze methane anomalies and gas correlations in the free troposphere from 2005 to present to identify trends for basins with oil and gas extraction sites and their influence on background concentrations downwind of wells. In most regions with oil and gas activity, we see continually increasing methane concentrations and about a 5-10 percent enhancement above background tropospheric concentrations. With this ongoing effort, we aim to demonstrate the benefits of satellite-derived “top-down” constraints for emissions estimates associated with oil and natural gas operations.