The potential near-source ozone impacts of upstream oil and gas
Eduardo P. Olaguer⁄
Houston Advanced Research Center, The Woodlands, Texas, USA
Please address correspondence to: Eduardo P. Olaguer, Houston Advanced Research Center, 4800 Research Forest Dr., The Woodlands, TX
77381, USA; e-mail: email@example.com
Increased drilling in urban areas overlying shale formations and its potential impact on human health through decreased air quality make it important to estimate the contribution of oil and gas activities to photochemical smog. Flares and compressor engines used in natural gas operations, for example, are large sources not only of NOx but also of formaldehyde, a hazardous air pollutant and powerful ozone precursor. We used a neighborhood scale (200 m horizontal resolution) three-dimensional (3D) air dispersion model with an appropriate chemical mechanism to simulate ozone formation in the vicinity of a hypothetical natural gas processing facility, based on accepted estimates of both regular and nonroutine emissions. The model predicts that, under average midday conditions in June, regular emissions mostly associated with compressor engines may increase ambient ozone in the Barnett Shale by more than 3 ppb beginning at about 2 km downwind of the facility, assuming there are no other major sources of ozone precursors. Flare volumes of 100,000 cubic meters per hour of natural gas over a period of 2 hr can also add over 3 ppb to peak 1-hr ozone somewhat further (>8 km) downwind, once dilution overcomes ozone titration and inhibition by large flare emissions of NOx. The additional peak ozone from the hypothetical flare can briefly exceed 10 ppb about 16 km downwind. The enhancements of
ambient ozone predicted by the model are significant, given that ozone control strategy widths are of the order of a few parts per billion. Degrading the horizontal resolution of the model to 1 km spuriously enhances the simulated ozone increases by reducing the effectiveness of ozone inhibition and titration due to artificial plume dilution.
Implications:Major metropolitan areas in or near shale formations will be hard pressed to demonstrate future attainment of the federal ozone standard, unless significant controls are placed on emissions from increased oil and gas exploration and production. The results presented here show the importance of improving the temporal and spatial resolution of both emission inventories and air quality models used in ozone attainment demonstrations for areas with significant oil and gas activities.