Ammonia and methane emissions from cattle and dairy feedlots in Colorado

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 3:10 PM
Levi Golston, Da Pan, Levi George Stanton, Lei Tao, Kang Sun and Mark A Zondlo, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, United States
Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are recognized as a major contributor of both methane and ammonia to the atmosphere. Ammonia is released by volatilization of urea and nitrogen containing wastes from the feedlot surface and waste management systems, while methane is produced from enteric fermentation and primarily exhaled into the atmosphere. Our objective was to survey plumes downwind of open lot feedyards near Greeley, Colorado and surrounding areas, to quantify the spatial and temporal variability of agricultural emissions in this area. Research was conducted during the month-long NASA DISCOVER-AQ campaign in July-August 2014, with over 4000 km of on-road measurements. Methane and ammonia concentrations were measured using open-path laser spectroscopy, along with water vapor, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide on a roof-mounted, mobile platform. The open-path design enables high resolution measurements of ammonia with minimized sampling issues. Concurrent measurements during the campaign by other groups on stationary and aircraft platforms help characterize the meteorological conditions and atmospheric chemistry. We present measurements from 65 of the 67 registered CAFOs in Weld County, which contain up to 660,000 cattle-equivalent animals units. The ammonia to methane enhancement ratio, ΔNH3:ΔCH4, was positively skewed with a median of 0.14 ± 0.04 ppmv/ppmv, consistent with our previous measurements during DISCOVER-AQ California. Due to the much greater variability of ammonia compared to methane, the emissions ratio is used to provide an estimate of feedyard ammonia emissions, with results divided for cattle, dairy, and sheep. Using the most recent emissions estimates of methane, we calculated a total of 28.8 TgNH3/yr released globally from feedlots alone, nearly as large as the IPCC’s estimate of 30.4 Tg/yr from all agriculture sources. This discrepancy suggests feedyard ammonia is underrepresented in current inventories and models, and its environmental effects on air quality and nitrogen deposition are not fully accounted for.