Scientific References

Poster: An Acetylene Tracer-Based Approach to Quantifying Methane Emissions from Distributed Sources Using Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy

Authors Chris W. Rella, Eric R. Crosson, Dave Dayton, Roger Green, Gary Hater, Rick Lafleur, Ray Merrill, Sze M. Tan, and Eben Thoma


The quantification of fugitive methane emissions from extended sources such as landfills is problematic due to the high temporal variability and spatial heterogeneity of the emission. Additionally, the relationship between the emission rate and the gas concentration at a given location is dependent on the meteorological conditions and local topography, preventing accurate quantification of the emission rate. When the total source emission is of interest, tracer methods allow quantitative measurements to be made using a single, mobile gas analyzer located in the far field of the source (i.e., at a distance that is large compared with the size of the extended source). Making measurements in the far field enables both the extended source and the tracer to be approximated as point sources. By releasing a tracer gas at a known rate at or near the center of the extended area source, the far-field measurement of the ratio of concentrations yields the ratio of emission rates, since the effects of atmospheric dispersion are the same for both species. An ultra-sensitive, dual species gas analyzer based on cavity ring-down spectroscopy has been developed to measure the concentrations of methane and acetylene with the required sensitivity and speed. Acetylene has been selected as a tracer gas due to its low concentration in the environment and the high detection sensitivity that can be achieved. We present field measurements of landfill methane plumes and overlapped acetylene plumes using this new instrument. Both mobile and fixed-point field data obtained with this analyzer are presented that demonstrate simplicity and robustness of the method. Both the strengths and the limitations of the acetylene tracer-based method are discussed.