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Fracking yields high wintertime ozone pollution

New study published in nature – ozone precursor in Utah oil and gas fields measured by PTR-MS

Gas flares from a stack in Utah’s Uintah Basin. Credit: Scott Sandberg, NOAA.

Chemicals released into the air by oil and gas exploration, extraction and related activities (i.e. horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing “fracking”) can spark reactions that lead to high levels of ozone in wintertime, high enough to exceed the US federal health standards, according to new NOAA-led research, published in Nature.

Winter ozone pollution is surprising because normally, the more intense sunlight of the summer season can spark the chemical reactions that create ozone pollution, said lead author Peter Edwards, a CIRES scientist working at CSD at the time of the study, now with University of York in England. However, Edwards and his colleagues showed that in winter in northeastern Utah, levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) build high enough that they can trigger pollution-forming reactions themselves.

IONICON PTR-QMS and PTR-TOFMS instruments were used for measuring ozone precursors and intermediates whose photochemistry lead to production of ozone. The PTR-MS instruments were used for quantifying secondary oVOCs (carbonyls) and primary emissions such as methanol, aromates and cycloalkanes, Martin Graus, scientist at the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics, University of Innsbruck, Austria, who has been involved in this study, explains.

The Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics, University of Innsbruck, Austria uses an IONICON PTR-QiTOF since early 2014 that is currently deployed for eddy-covariance flux measurements in the Innsbruck downtown region.

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