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2012 EPA Research Progress Report

New Technology to Improve Local Air Quality Monitoring, Reduce Costs

Mobile air monitoring device relays real-time data to occupants in the vehicle they can use to identify emissions that could indicate leaks.

In 2012, EPA scientists and engineers continued to advance the use and development of innovative technologies for researching, monitoring, and managing air pollution. The research is providing new, low-cost capabilities to measure emissions near industry, roadways and other areas where air pollution may be a concern, but has traditionally been difficult to study.

For example, in Wyoming, EPA researchers mounted air sensors on a vehicle to create a mobile monitoring platform for use along oil and gas pipelines. The device relays real-time data to occupants in the vehicle that they can use to identify spikes in emissions that could identify leaks.

In a similar project, EPA researchers used an electric-powered, modified vehicle or “air sniffing car” (see a video about the car: http://bit.ly/Tgga5v) equipped with air monitoring technology to quantify emissions profiles along major roadways and study the potential health impact that traffic poses to those living, working or going to school near major highways.

Improvements in stationary air sensor technology allow remote sensors to scan for "chemical footprints" of emission characteristics.

In addition to mobile air monitors, EPA researchers introduced novel monitoring approaches utilizing advanced stationary sensor technology. For example, a new approach was developed for monitoring air quality at petroleum refineries to detect and identify leaks more rapidly so that small problems can be found and fixed. Referred to as fence line monitoring, the system uses a series of sensors mounted along a facility’s perimeter to capture emissions from all processes occurring within the facility rather than deploying more expensive monitoring devices targeted at individual processes within the facility.

The innovative, low-cost fence line sampling approach has support from EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation and partners in the industrial sector because it offers a highly cost effective approach to support a new refinery sector proposal under the Clean Air Act. The sensors are expected to result in significant savings at refineries and provide a more flexible compliance framework. The Agency estimates that industry will realize savings of some $500 million over 10 years in reduced compliance costs.

The new technologies EPA is advancing show the promise of establishing low cost, round-the-clock monitoring capabilities that would serve as both an early warning system for industry to stop potentially costly leaks and better protect neighboring communities from air pollution.

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