Characterization of methane plumes downwind of natural gas compressor stations in Pennsylvania and New York

Sci Total Environ. 2017 Feb 15;580:1214-1221. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.12.082. Epub 2016 Dec 28.


The extraction of unconventional oil and natural gas from shale energy reservoirs has raised concerns regarding upstream and midstream activities and their potential impacts on air quality. Here we present in situ measurements of ambient methane concentrations near multiple natural gas compressor stations in New York and Pennsylvania using cavity ring-down laser spectrometry coupled with global positioning system technology. These data reveal discernible methane plumes located proximally to compressor stations, which exhibit high variability in their methane emissions depending on the weather conditions and on-site activities. During atmospheric temperature inversions, when near-ground mixing of the atmosphere is limited or does not occur, residents and properties located within 1 mile of a compressor station can be exposed to rogue methane from these point sources. These data provide important insight into the characterization and potential for optimization of natural gas compressor station operations.

Keywords: Air quality; Compressor stations; Methane.