Regional Air Quality Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing and Natural Gas Activity: Evidence from Ambient VOC Observations

Monday, 15 December 2014
Timothy Vinciguerra, Sheryl Ehrman, Simon Yao, Joseph Dadzie, Alexa Chittams and Russell R Dickerson, University of Maryland College Park, College Park, MD, United States
Over the past decade, many anthropogenic pollutants have been successfully reduced, providing improved air quality. However, a new influx of emissions associated with hydraulic fracturing and natural gas operations could be counteracting some of these benefits. Using hourly measurements from Photochemical Assessment Monitoring Stations (PAMS) in the Baltimore, MD and Washington, D.C. areas, we observed that following a period of decline, daytime ethane concentrations have increased significantly since 2010. This trend appears to be linked with the rapid natural gas production in upwind, neighboring states, especially Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Furthermore, ethane concentrations failed to display this trend at a PAMS site outside of Atlanta, GA, a region without widespread natural gas operations.

Year-to-year changes in VOCs were further evaluated by using Positive Matrix Factorization (PMF) to perform source apportionment on hourly observations in Essex, MD from 2005-2013. This process takes ambient measurements and attributes them to sources such as biogenic, natural gas, industrial, gasoline, and vehicle exhaust by using tracer species as identifiers. Preliminary PMF results also indicate an increasing influence of natural gas sources for this area.