The Importance of Ammonia for Winter Haze Formation in Two Oil and Gas Production Regions
Monday, 15 December 2014: 11:05 AM
Fine particle ammonium nitrate formation results from the atmospheric reaction of gaseous ammonia and nitric acid. This reaction is most important in winter when low temperatures thermodynamically enhance particle formation. Nitrogen oxides emissions from oil and gas operations partially react in the atmosphere to form nitric acid. The availability of atmospheric ammonia plays an important role in determining whether the nitric acid formed results in wintertime ammonium nitrate formation. Here we contrast situations in two important U.S. oil and gas production regions. Measurements of ammonia, nitric acid, ammonium nitrate and other species were made from 2007 to present near Boulder, Wyoming and in winters 2013 and 2014 in western North Dakota. The Boulder, Wyoming site is close to the large Jonah and Pinedale Anticline gas fields. Field sites at the north unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Fort Union are situated in the large Bakken Formation oil and gas production region. Wintertime formation of nitric acid and ammonium nitrate, together comprising nitrogen in the +5 oxidation state (N(V)), was observed in both locations. Concentrations of N(V), however, are generally much lower at Boulder, WY than in the Bakken. An even bigger difference is seen in fine particle ammonium nitrate concentrations; limited regional ammonia is available in western Wyoming to react with nitric acid, leaving a portion of the nitric acid trapped in the gas phase. Higher concentrations of ammonia are observed in the Bakken where they support formation of much higher concentrations of ammonium nitrate. Comparison of these two regions clearly indicates the importance of understanding both local NOx emissions and regional concentrations of ammonia in predicting source impacts on formation of fine particles and haze.