Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

On the rise: ethane concentrations climbing again

24.06.2016

Global emissions of ethane, an air pollutant and greenhouse gas, are on the uptick again - Largest increases over the central and eastern United States

A team led by scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder (CU)-Boulder, supported by Andrea Pozzer from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, found that a steady decline of global ethane emissions following a peak in about 1970 ended between 2005 and 2010 in most of the Northern Hemisphere and has since reversed. Between 2009 and 2014, ethane emissions in the Northern Hemisphere increased by about 400,000 tons annually, the bulk of it from North American oil and gas activity. While methane is the main component of natural gas, it can contain up to 15 percent ethane.


Modeled annual ozone increase: The rising ozone levels in summer are due to increased NMHC emissions over the USA.

Andrea Pozzer, MPI for Chemistry


Source of ethane? A gas drilling rig near Alvarado, Texas.

David R. Tribble, Creative Commons

The decline of ethane and other non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC) starting around 1970 is believed to be primarily due to better emission controls, says lead study author Detlev Helmig, a fellow at CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR). The controls resulted in reduced emissions from oil and gas production, storage and distribution, as well as combustion exhaust from cars and trucks.

“About 60 percent of the drop we saw in ethane levels over the past 40 years has already been made up in the past five years,” said Helmig. “If this rate continues, we are on track to return to the maximum ethane levels we saw in the 1970s in only about three more years. We rarely see changes in atmospheric gases that quickly and dramatically.”

“These NMHC emission changes can potentially offset emission controls that have been implemented for curbing photochemical ozone production, and therefore can be a concern for attaining the ozone air quality standard”, says co-author Andrea Pozzer, group leader at the MPI for Chemistry. Although non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) play a minor role as greenhouse gas they are crucial in the photochemical production of ozone (O3). The level of NMHC emissions is thus important for predicting changes in air quality. “We used a numerical model to assess the impact of such reversal trends in NMHC, showing that these could counteract all the effort made to reduce ozone pollution over the North Hemisphere in general and in the USA in particular”, says Andrea Pozzer. At the MPI for Chemistry he and his group develop and use numerical models to analyze and interpret observational data obtained from field campaigns and satellite remote sensing instruments.

Largest increases in ethane over areas of heavy oil and gas activity in the United States

Ethane, propane and a host of other NMHCs are released naturally by the seepage of fossil carbon deposits, volcanic activity and wildfires. But human activities now make up roughly three-quarters of the atmospheric ethane that is being emitted.

The air samples for the study were collected from more than 40 sites around the world, from Colorado and Greenland to Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand and the Earth’s Polar Regions. More than 30,000 air flasks were sampled at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Earth Systems Research Laboratory in Boulder over the past decade.

The study also showed that among the air sampling locations around the world, the largest increases in ethane and shorter-lived propane were seen over the central and eastern United States, areas of heavy oil and gas activity, said Helmig. “We concluded that added emissions from U.S. oil and gas drilling have been the primary source for the atmospheric ethane trend reversal,” he said.

The study also indicated that emissions of total NMHC in the Northern Hemisphere are now increasing by roughly 1.2 million tons annually.

The findings from the flask network, which INSTAAR and NOAA have been operating for more than 10 years, were supported by additional measurements showing very similar ethane behavior from a number of continuous global monitoring sites.

A component of natural gas, ethane plays an important role in Earth’s atmosphere. As it breaks down near Earth’s surface it can create ground-based ozone pollution, a health and environmental risk, especially in the summer months. “Ethane is the second most significant hydrocarbon emitted from oil and gas after methane,” Helmig said. “Other studies show on average there is about 10 times as much methane being emitted by the oil and gas industry as ethane.”

There is high interest by scientists in methane since it is a strong greenhouse gas, said Helmig. The new findings on ethane increases indicate there should be more research on associated methane emissions.

Original publication:
“Reversal of Global Atmospheric Ethane and Propane Trends largely due to US Oil and Natural Gas Production”: Detlev Helmig, Samuel Rossabi, Jacques Hueber, Pieter Tans, Stephen A. Montzka, Ken Masarie, Kirk Thoning, Christian-Plass Duelmer, Anja Claude, Lucy J. Carpenter, Alastair C. Lewis, Shalini Punjabi, Stefan Reimann, Martin K. Vollmer, Rainer Steinbrecher, James W. Hannigan, Louisa K. Emmons, Emmanuel Mahieu, Bruno Franco, Dan Smale, and Andrea Pozzer, Nature Geoscience, (2016), doi:10.1038/ngeo2721

(Press release of the University of Colorado Boulder with additions from MPIC)


Contact:
Mr. Andrea Pozzer, PhD
Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz
Atmospheric Chemistry Department
Phone: +49 (0)6131-305-4600
Email: andrea.pozzer@mpic.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.mpic.de/en/news/press-information/news/on-the-rise-ethane-concentrati...

Dr. Susanne Benner | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate change weakens Walker circulation
20.10.2017 | MARUM - Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften an der Universität Bremen

nachricht Shallow soils promote savannas in South America
20.10.2017 | Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseen

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>