A sensing network involving citizens for high spatio-temporal resolution monitoring of fugitive emissions from a petroleum pre-treatment plant

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Oct 15;791:148135. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.148135. Epub 2021 May 29.


In this study an innovative sensing network consisting of eight photoionization detectors, meteorological sensors, a video camera and a telephonic system able to systematize the population complaints was developed for the monitoring of odor emissions. The development of monitoring approaches with high temporal and spatial resolution and actively involving citizens, is strategic in areas where relevant and also short-term emissive events frequently occur and the conventional approaches fail due to the high variability of fugitive emissions. Moreover, even if unpleasant odors are not necessarily direct triggers of health effects, they could be associated with the release of other harmful compounds. Monitoring approaches also involving citizens are thus strategic tools because odors annoyance perceived by population may be a potential health risk warning. Therefore, the developed sensing network was set up in Val d'Agri (Basilicata, Italy) where a petroleum pre-treatment plant (COVA) rises in a rural and inhabited area. The data collected during the monitoring campaign from the 16th February to the 30th July 2017, showed Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOCs) concentrations decreasing moving away from the plant and up to five times higher than levels registered in the closest municipality (Viggiano). Moreover, recurrent short-term critical events characterized by concentration values far above the average of the period and with maximum values ranging from 0.92 to 1.89 ppm, were registered in correspondence with high levels of benzene (up to 23.9 μg/m3) and anemometric conditions able to transport pollutants from COVA to each receptor site. The spatial and temporal distribution of TVOC concentrations proved to be affected by the distance from COVA, wind direction and industrial activities verified using video reportage and citizen claims. Therefore, the developed approach has proven to be a useful tool to credit people's perception of odors and also to quantify citizen exposure to VOCs during short-term events.

Keywords: Citizen science; Fugitive emissions; Odor control; Oil and gas plant; Photo ionization detectors (PID); Sensor network; VOCs.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants* / analysis
  • Air Pollution* / analysis
  • Cities
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Humans
  • Petroleum*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Petroleum
  • Volatile Organic Compounds