OBSERVATIONS AND EMISSIONS OF ENERGY-ASSOCIATED OZONE PRECURSORS IN THE MID-ATLANTIC UNITED STATES
Vinciguerra, Timothy P.
Ehrman, Sheryl H.
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Surface ozone is formed in the presence of NOx (NO + NO2) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and is hazardous to human health. A better understanding of these precursors is needed for developing effective policies to improve air quality. To evaluate the year-to-year changes in source contributions to total VOCs, Positive Matrix Factorization (PMF) was used to perform source apportionment using available hourly observations from June through August at a Photochemical Assessment Monitoring Station (PAMS) in Essex, MD for each year from 2007-2015. Results suggest that while gasoline and vehicle exhaust emissions have fallen, the contribution of natural gas sources to total VOCs has risen. To investigate this increasing natural gas influence, ethane measurements from PAMS sites in Essex, MD and Washington, D.C. were examined. Following a period of decline, daytime ethane concentrations have increased significantly after 2009. This trend appears to be linked with the rapid shale gas production in upwind, neighboring states, especially Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Back-trajectory analyses similarly show that ethane concentrations at these monitors were significantly greater if air parcels had passed through counties containing a high density of unconventional natural gas wells. In addition to VOC emissions, the compressors and engines involved with hydraulic fracturing operations also emit NOx and particulate matter (PM). The Community Multi-scale Air Quality (CMAQ) Model was used to simulate air quality for the Eastern U.S. in 2020, including emissions from shale gas operations in the Appalachian Basin. Predicted concentrations of ozone and PM show the largest decreases when these natural gas resources are hypothetically used to convert coal-fired power plants, despite the increased emissions from hydraulic fracturing operations expanded into all possible shale regions in the Appalachian Basin. While not as clean as burning natural gas, emissions of NOx from coal-fired power plants can be reduced by utilizing post-combustion controls. However, even though capital investment has already been made, these controls are not always operated at optimal rates. CMAQ simulations for the Eastern U.S. in 2018 show ozone concentrations decrease by ~5 ppb when controls on coal-fired power plants limit NOx emissions to historically best rates.