Wintertime methane and non-methane hydrocarbon measurements in Utah's Uintah Basin

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

AGU Fall Meeting


San Francisco, CA

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As a part of the winter 2011/2012 Uintah Basin Winter Ozone Study, ambient methane (CH4) and total non-methane hydrocarbons (TNMHC) were measured at a population center (Roosevelt) and within the oil/gas field (Horse Pool). At Horse Pool, near real-time CH4/TNMHC were monitored using a GC-FID analyzer. Samples were collected for 30 seconds once every five minutes. The TNMHC concentrations were reported in ppb-C3, or parts per billion in C3 (propane) equivalents. At Roosevelt, discrete volatile organic carbon (VOC) samples were collected for two weeks beginning on Feb. 14, 2012 using evacuated stainless steel Summa canisters. The samples were collected over four 1-hr time periods spaced throughout the day. After collection, the canisters were shipped to a commercial laboratory for GC-MS quantification. Methane samples were obtained at Roosevelt by whole vial collection and subsequently analyzed via GC-FID. Nominally, the CH4 vials were collected at the start and end of each canister collection period, as well as intermittently throughout the daily periods. Furthermore, CH4 grab samples were collected at several other locations throughout the Basin when possible. For the full wintertime study period (Jan. 19 - Mar. 15, 2012), the CH4 and TNMHC at Horse Pool averaged 3.47±1.8 ppm and 243±253 ppb-C3 (± 1σ), respectively. A very strong diurnal behavior was seen for both classes of compounds, with CH4 maximums approaching 30 ppm in the early morning hours. During the comparative February time period, CH4 concentrations at Horse Pool averaged 3.25±0.07 ppm (± 95% CI), while CH4 at Roosevelt averaged 2.52±0.08 ppm. No strong diurnal behavior was observed at Roosevelt and the maximum CH4 levels only reached 4.08 ppm. Grab samples from the other locations found similar or slightly lower CH4 concentrations, with the exception of Ouray (3.91±1.27 ppm) which was also located in the production/exploration area, but was among the lowest elevation of the sampling sites. It was also observed at Horse Pool that the relationship between CH4 and TNMHC showed a strong function of wind direction. When the winds were out of the northwest the ratio of TNMHC to CH4 was about 185, whereas when the wind was from any other sector the ratio decreased to around 80. Tedlar bag grab samples collected from arrayed locations surrounding Horse Pool verified the wind sector-dependent ratio function, indicating two separate regional source signatures. Examination of well-type locations suggested that these differing regimes may be due to the spatial delineation between predominantly oil or gas wells. Direct comparison of TNMHC between Roosevelt and Horse Pool was not possible because the commercial analysis was unable to identify VOCS with fewer than three carbons and parallel investigators (J. Gillman; NOAA-CSD) observed that these were significant at Horse Pool. Recalling that the averaged TNMHC at Horse Pool was 243 ppb-C3, it should be noted that of the compounds identified at Roosevelt only four (propane, isobutene, n-butane, and n-pentane) were observed at concentrations greater than 1.0 ppb. These species are often associated with urban or traffic areas, as opposed to oil and gas fields. Additionally, examination of the relationships between other typical urban VOCs (BTEX), their ratios also suggest sources associated with urban, traffic dominated plumes.

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