Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from oil and natural gas activities: compositional comparison of 13 major shale basins via NOAA airborne measurements
Abstract:The recent and unprecedented increase in natural gas production from shale formations is associated with a rise in the production of non-methane volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including natural gas plant liquids (e.g., ethane, propane, and butanes) and liquid lease condensate (e.g., pentanes, hexanes, aromatics and cycloalkanes). Since 2010, the production of natural gas liquids and the amount of natural gas vented/flared has increased by factors of ~1.28 and 1.57, respectively (U.S. Energy and Information Administration), indicating an increasingly large potential source of hydrocarbons to the atmosphere. Emission of VOCs may affect local and regional air quality due to the potential to form tropospheric ozone and organic particles as well as from the release of toxic species such as benzene and toluene.
The 2015 Shale Oil and Natural Gas Nexus (SONGNex) campaign studied emissions from oil and natural gas activities across the central United States in order to better understand their potential air quality and climate impacts. Here we present VOC measurements from 19 research flights aboard the NOAA WP-3D over 11 shale basins across 8 states. Non-methane hydrocarbons were measured using an improved whole air sampler (iWAS) with post-flight analysis via a custom-built gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GC-MS). The whole air samples are complimented by higher-time resolution measurements of methane (Picarro spectrometer), ethane (Aerodyne spectrometer), and VOCs (H3O+ chemical ionization mass spectrometer). Preliminary analysis show that the Permian Basin on the New Mexico/Texas border had the highest observed VOC mixing ratios for all basins studied. We will utilize VOC enhancement ratios to compare the composition of methane and VOC emissions for each basin and the associated reactivities of these gases with the hydroxyl radical, OH, as a proxy for potential ozone formation.