Atmospheric Pollution Research
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We measured methane and carbon dioxide fluxes at natural gas well pad soils and undisturbed soils in the Rocky Mountain and Gulf Coast regions of the United States, including producing and gas storage wells. We collected both short-term (15 min) and multi-day (between 3 and 8), continuous measurements at 47 well pads and two undisturbed locations. Methane fluxes varied by more than an order of magnitude over periods as short as 30 min (e.g., 19–593 mg m−2 h−1 in one instance), and diurnal and seasonal variability was also significant (e.g., spring-to-fall change from 509 to 14174 mg m−2 h−1). We hypothesize that short-term flux variability was caused by pulsed flow of methane during its migration through the subsurface. Barometric pressure and well conditions likely impacted fluxes, but we found only weak evidence for this. Bacterial methanotrophy appeared to impact methane flux magnitude and variability. We injected methane into the subsurface at one well, and we found that, while fluxes of methane and carbon dioxide, and combustible soil gas concentrations, increased in response to the injection, the response was not uniform, and fluxes exhibited high hourly-scale variability, in spite of a constant injection rate. Methane fluxes tended to be higher at well pad soils compared to background soils (often much higher), and fluxes tended to be higher at well pad locations closer to the well head.
Lyman, S. N., Tran, H. N. Q., Mansfield, M. L., Bowers, R., Smith, A. 2020. Strong temporal variablility in methane fluxes from natural gas well pad soils. Atmospheric Pollution Research. 1-38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apr.2020.05.011
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