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Science of The Total Environment



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We measured fluxes of methane, a suite of non-methane hydrocarbons (C2–C11), light alcohols, and carbon dioxide from oil and gas produced water storage and disposal ponds in Utah (Uinta Basin) and Wyoming (Upper Green River Basin) United States during 2013–2016. In this paper, we discuss the characteristics of produced water composition and air-water fluxes, with a focus on flux chamber measurements. In companion papers, we will (1) report on inverse modeling methods used to estimate emissions from produced water ponds, including comparisons with flux chamber measurements, and (2) discuss the development of mass transfer coefficients to estimate emissions and place emissions from produced water ponds in the context of all regional oil and gas-related emissions.

Alcohols (made up mostly of methanol) were the most abundant organic compound group in produced water (91% of total volatile organic concentration, with upper and lower 95% confidence levels of 89 and 93%) but accounted for only 34% (28 to 41%) of total organic compound fluxes from produced water ponds. Non-methane hydrocarbons, which are much less water-soluble than methanol and less abundant in produced water, accounted for the majority of emitted organics. C6–C9 alkanes and aromatics dominated hydrocarbon fluxes, perhaps because lighter hydrocarbons had already volatilized from produced water prior to its arrival in storage or disposal ponds, while heavier hydrocarbons are less water soluble and less volatile. Fluxes of formaldehyde and other carbonyls were low (1% (1 to 2%) of total organic compound flux). The speciation and magnitude of fluxes varied strongly across the facilities measured and with the amount of time water had been exposed to the atmosphere. The presence or absence of ice also impacted fluxes.

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