Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and greenhouse gases from oil and gas exploration and production activities contribute to increased ozone levels in the ambient air, and pose a threat to air quality in and around communities in the Rocky Mountains. Furthermore, our ability to estimate the emissions from these activities is limited. EPA has collaborated with the states of Colorado and Wyoming to conduct field studies using a highly sensitive instrument mounted on a mobile platform to detect and quantify oil and gas emissions. The mobile unit is equipped with a fast-response cavity ringdown spectrometer, a device that can obtain rapid measurements downwind of potential sources, and a precise global positioning system to map air pollution patterns in areas around sources. Data collected with this remote method have improved knowledge of air pollutant emissions from production and storage equipment.
As a result of these field studies, the project team has improved the overall performance of the mobile detection and quantification method, which can now produce emission flux estimates of methane and VOCs from individual sources. When the mobile method is fully developed, this technology can be passed on to state and local health departments to monitor air quality in communities near oil and gas exploration and production activities.