Derived Emission Rates and Photochemical Production Rates of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) Associated with Oil and Natural Gas Operations in the Uintah Basin, UT During a Wintertime Ozone Formation Event
Abstract:The Uintah Basin, an oil and natural gas extraction field in Utah, experienced extremely high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ozone during the winter of 2013 – up to 100 ppmv carbon and 150 ppbv O3. Here we interpret VOCs measured during an ozone formation event from 31 Jan 2013 to 8 Feb 2013. Ratios of VOCs show strong diurnal cycles and week-long trends.
A simple analysis was applied to ratios of aromatic VOCs measured by proton transfer reaction mass spectrometer (PTR-MS) to explain these trends and to estimate emission rates of aromatic VOCs from oil and natural gas extraction, VOC emission ratios relative to benzene, and ambient [OH]. The analysis incorporates the following assumptions: (1) the source composition of emitted VOCs and their emission rates were temporally and spatially constant, and (2) the removal of VOCs was governed by reaction with OH, diurnal profile of which is constrained by measured photolysis rates. The main findings are (1) the emission rate of methane, extrapolated from the emission rate of benzene, is on the same order as an independent estimate from aircraft measurements of methane in 2012, (2) the derived aromatic emission ratios are consistent with source contributions from both oil and gas producing wells, and (3) calculated daily OH concentrations are low, peaking at 1x106 molecules cm-3.
The analysis was extended to investigate secondary production of oxygenated VOCs measured by PTR-MS. The analysis is able to explain daytime production, but it does not adequately explain nighttime behavior, which may be affected by complex deposition to snow and ice surfaces. The relative carbon mass of primary and secondary compounds was calculated and compared to observations. At the end of the ozone formation event (day 6), our analysis predicts that secondary (oxidized) VOCs should comprise about 40% of total carbon mass. However, only 12% of these compounds are accounted for by measured oxygenated VOCs and organic aerosol. Additionally, formation rates of measured oxygenated VOCs did not sum to the total primary compound oxidation rate. The disparity is likely due to both incomplete measurements of oxygenated products and VOC loss to deposition.