Mobile measurement of methane: plumes, isotopes and inventory verification
Abstract:Since 2013 the RHUL group has been identifying methane plumes from major UK sources using a Picarro 2301 coupled to the A0941 mobile module. Once identified the plumes have been sampled by filling Tedlar or Flexfoil bags for later carbon isotopic analysis by high-precision IRMS. This method has ben successfully deployed to isotopically characterize the main anthropogenic methane emitters in the UK (natural gas, coal, landfill, wastewater treatment, cattle; Zazzeri et al., 2015) and during overseas campaigns in eastern Australia (coal, cattle, legacy gas wells) and Kuwait (landfill, wastewater treatment, oil refineries, cattle, camels). This has identified strong similarities of isotopic signature for some sources (landfill, cattle), but large variations for others (natural gas, coal), which must be isotopically resolved at regional scale. Both landfill and natural gas emissions in SE England have tightly-constrained δ13C signatures, averaging -58 ± 3‰ and -36 ± 2‰, respectively, the latter being characteristic of homogenised North Sea gas supply. In contrast, signatures for coal mines in England and Wales fall in a range of 51.2 ± 0.3‰ to 30.9 ± 1.4‰, but can be tightly constrained by region.
On a local scale in west London, repeat surveys in the boroughs of Hounslow and Runnymede have been made for comparison with the latest 1x1 km grid UK inventories for 2009 and 2012, which are subdivided by UNECE categories. An excess methane map can be derived for comparison with inventory emissions maps by identifying daily background and binning the excess values from mobile measurements by grid-square. This shows that the spatial distribution of emissions in the UK 2012 inventory is a big improvement on that of 2009. It also suggests that there is an overestimation of emissions from old landfills (closed before 2000 and reliant on a topsoil cap for oxidation), and an underestimation on emissions from currently active landfill cells.
Zazzeri, G. et al. (2015) Plume mapping and isotopic characterization of anthropogenic methane sources, Atmospheric Environment, 110, 151-162.