O3, VOC, Nox, PM2.5, and meteorological measurements during an inversion episode in Utah's Uinta Basin

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

AGU Fall Meeting


SanFrancisco, CA

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Recent measurements found high winter ozone (O3) at several locations in northeastern Utah's Uinta Basin. Similar to Wyoming's Upper Green River Basin, the area has seen recent growth in the gas/oil sector. As a part of a more comprehensive project, a study was conducted examining the relationships between O3, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and meteorology during an inversion episode. The study took place February 21-25, 2011 at the area's population center (Vernal) and at an area within the gas/oil fields (Red Wash). At both sites, O3 and NOx, displayed expected diurnal behaviors. The 1-hr O3 concentrations ranged from 10-90 ppb at Vernal and 34-107 ppb at Red Wash. Average diurnal O3 maximums (±95% CI) were 70.4±12.1 ppb and 76.8±12.6 ppb at Vernal and Red Wash, respectively. The Red Wash average O3 diurnal curve was broader than that at Vernal and did not titrate out as rapidly in the evening and morning hours. In contrast, higher NOx was observed at Vernal, with hourly averaged values ranging from 4.5-80.2 ppb, compared to 1.5-29.7 ppb at Red Wash. The NOx tended to follow traffic patterns at both sites, with morning maximum 1-hr averages of 40.8±12.1 ppb and 20.2±8.7 ppb, respectively. A portable O3 monitor attached to a tethered balloon found high ground level O3 (70-80 ppb) and a decrease to relatively constant levels (50-60 ppb) by 150 m agl. Methane and non-methane hydrocarbons (NHMC) were collected at least twice per day using whole vial and sorbent cartridges, followed by GC-FID and GC-MS analysis. The gas/oil field samples (Red Wash) found significantly higher CH4 levels (2.71±0.32 ppm) compared to the Vernal samples (1.82±0.14 ppm). The NMHC were likewise higher at the Red Wash location. Calculation of the maximum incremental reactivity (MIR) estimated that methane, ethane, propane, acetylene, remaining alkanes, alkenes, and aromatics accounted for 7.9%, 18.5%, 4.7%, 1.0%, 20.6%, 46.7%, and 0.6%, respectively, of the Vernal ozone formation potential. For the Red Wash site, the equivalent MIRs were 7.0%, 10.9%, 4.7%, 0.5%, 32.4%, 39.6%, and 4.8%. Five collocated AirMetrics MiniVol samplers measured 23-hr average PM2.5 concentrations at each site. Collocation allowed various analyses for compositional determination. The PM2.5 levels averaged 16.4±3.9 at Vernal and 8.9±0.3 μg/m3 Red Wash. At both sites, carbonaceous material made up around 80% of the PM2.5. Elemental carbon accounted for 13.4% and 12.8% of the PM2.5 and organic carbon contributed 64.1% and 69.6%, at Vernal and Red Wash, respectively. Vertical meteorology was examined through the use of tethersondes. The period was characterized by a stagnant high pressure system until the final day of the study when an active storm system moved through the area. Vertical temperature profiles showed strong temperature inversions from the ground to >350 m agl and a very stable atmosphere throughout the study. Winds were almost always light (≤2 m/s) and changed direction through the vertical profile. Diurnal variation in the height of the surface layer was observed varied from 20-80 m agl.

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