Forum: Oil and Natural Gas Development: Air Quality, Climate Science, and Policy

Photo credit: Stefan Schwietzke

Photo credit: Stefan Schwietzke

Collection launched: 27 Mar 2015

Guest Editors

Brian Lamb, Environmental Engineering Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, Washington State University
Stefan Schwietzke, Environmental Defense Fund, Boulder, Colorado, United States

Recent advances in fossil fuel extraction technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing in tight formations and tar sand mining, have led to a surge in oil and natural gas exploration and production, and the expansion of the supporting infrastructure. While the transition from coal or oil to natural gas use in electricity generation results in a desirable reduction of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of electricity produced, emissions from oil and natural gas activities are multi-faceted and have potential to contribute to local, regional, and global air pollution, and climate warming.

Atmospheric impacts can affect oil and gas workers, residents near oil and gas operations, and the regional and the global communities. There are a myriad of potential emissions that have been identified with those of methane, hydrogen sulfide, fracking fluid and additives components, volatile and polycyclic aromatic organic compounds, and aerosols previously having received most attention. Methane, the main constituent of natural gas is a potent greenhouse gas, and leakage from oil and gas operations can offset the climate benefits from the reduction of coal usage. Additional effects arise from production of secondary pollutants, such as surface ozone and aerosols, which can impact regional air quality and further add to the radiative climate forcing.

This forum is presenting research investigating emissions from oil and gas operations and their atmospheric, air quality, and climate impacts. Invited are studies on occupational, local, regional, and global scales, as well as interdisciplinary contributions that overlap with other Elementa publication Domains. The public and policy makers have a demonstrated interest in scientific observations and assessments to facilitate educated decisions for the direction of oil and natural gas development. Therefore, we also encourage article submissions that address bridging science and policy in terms of existing and future energy systems assessments.

Submission inquiries can be directed to Elementa Atmospheric Science Domain Editor in Chief Detlev Helmig (

Currently accepting submissions

Collection Articles

Policy Bridge
The risks of hydraulic fracturing and the responsibilities of engineers
Robert Kirkman, Chloé F. Arson, Lauren Stewart, Rebecca Harris, Amanda Francis

Research Article
Analysis of local-scale background concentrations of methane and other gas-phase species in the Marcellus Shale
J. Douglas Goetz, Anita Avery, Ben Werden, Cody Floerchinger, Edward C. Fortner, Joda Wormhoudt, Paola Massoli, Scott C. Herndon, Charles E. Kolb, W. Berk Knighton, Jeff Peischl, Carsten Warneke, Joost A. de Gouw, Stephanie L. Shaw, Peter F. DeCarlo 

Policy Bridge
Possible malfunction in widely used methane sampler deserves attention but poses limited implications for supply chain emission estimates
Ramón A. Alvarez, David R. Lyon, Anthony J. Marchese, Allen L. Robinson, Steven P. Hamburg

Research Article
O3, CH4, CO2, CO, NO2 and NMHC aircraft measurements in the Uinta Basin oil and gas region under low and high ozone conditions in winter 2012 and 2013
S. J. Oltmans, A. Karion, R. C. Schnell, G. Pétron, D. Helmig, S. A. Montzka, S. Wolter, D. Neff, B. R. Miller, J. Hueber, S. Conley, B. J. Johnson, C. Sweeney

Research Article
Analysis of non-methane hydrocarbon data from a monitoring station affected by oil and gas development in the Eagle Ford shale, Texas
Gunnar W. Schade, Geoffrey Roest

Research Article
Distributions of air pollutants associated with oil and natural gas development measured in the Upper Green River Basin of Wyoming
R.A. Field, J.J. Soltis, P. Pérez-Ballesta, E. Grandesso, D.C. Montague

Research Article
Influence of oil and gas emissions on ambient atmospheric non-methane hydrocarbons in residential areas of Northeastern Colorado
Chelsea R. Thompson, Jacques Hueber, Detlev Helmig

Research Article
Anatomy of wintertime ozone associated with oil and natural gas extraction activity in Wyoming and Utah
Samuel Oltmans, Russell Schnell, Bryan Johnson, Gabrielle Pétron, Thomas Mefford, Ryan Neely III

Research Article
Air pollution impacts due to petroleum extraction in the Norwegian Sea during the ACCESS aircraft campaign
P. Tuccella, J. L. Thomas, K. S. Law, J.-C. Raut1, L. Marelle, A. Roiger, B. Weinzierl, H. A. C. Denier van der Gon, H. Schlager, T. Onishi

Research Article
Surface ozone in the Colorado northern Front Range and the influence of oil and gas development during FRAPPE/DISCOVER-AQ in summer 2014
L. C. Cheadle, S. J. Oltmans, G. Pétron, R. C. Schnell, E. J. Mattson, S. C. Herndon, A. M. Thompson, D. R. Blake, A. McClure-Begley

Research Article
Comparing facility-level methane emission rate estimates at natural gas gathering and boosting stations
Timothy L. Vaughn, Clay S. Bell, Tara I. Yacovitch, Joseph R. Roscioli, Scott C. Herndon, Stephen Conley, Stefan Schwietzke, Garvin A. Heath, Gabrielle Pétron, Daniel Zimmerle 

Research Article
Natural gas facility methane emissions: measurements by tracer flux ratio in two US natural gas producing basins
Tara I. Yacovitch, Conner Daube, Timothy L. Vaughn, Clay S. Bell, Joseph R. Roscioli, W. Berk Knighton, David D. Nelson, Daniel Zimmerle, Garbielle Pétron, Scott C. Herndon

Research Article
Gathering pipeline methane emissions in Fayetteville shale pipelines and scoping guidelines for future pipeline measurement campaigns
Daniel J. Zimmerle, Cody K. Pickering, Clay S. Bell, Garvin A. Heath, Dag Nummedal, Gabrielle Pétron, Timothy L. Vaughn

Research Article
A decade of changes in nitrogen oxides over regions of oil and natural gas activity in the United States
Aman Majid, Maria Val Martin, Lok N. Lamsal, Bryan N. Duncan

Research Article
Comparison of methane emission estimates from multiple measurement techniques at natural gas production pads
Clay Samuel Bell, Timothy L. Vaughn, Daniel Zimmerle, Scott C. Herndon, Tara I. Yacovitch, Garvin A. Heath, Gabrielle Pétron, Rachel Edie, Robert A. Field, Shane M. Murphy, Anna M. Robertson, Jeffrey Soltis

Research Article
Methane emissions from oil and gas production sites in Alberta, Canada
Daniel Zavala-Araiza, Scott C. Herndon, Joseph R. Roscioli, Tara I. Yacovitch, Matthew R. Johnson, David R. Tyner, Mark Omara, Berk Knighton

Research Article
Changes in summertime ozone in Colorado during 2000–2015
Tanja Bien, Detlev Helmig

Research Article
Methane emissions in the Netherlands: The Groningen field
Tara I. Yacovitch, Bruno Neininger, Scott C. Herndon, Hugo Denier van der Gon, Sander Jonkers, Jan Hulskotte, Joseph R. Roscioli, Daniel Zavala-Araiza

Research Article
Methane emissions from contrasting production regions within Alberta, Canada: Implications under incoming federal methane regulations
Elizabeth O'Connell, David Risk, Emmaline Atherton, Evelise Bourlon, Chelsea Fougère, Jennifer Baillie, David Lowry, Jacob Johnson

Research Article
Boundary layer ozone in the Northern Colorado Front Range in July–August 2014 during FRAPPE and DISCOVER-AQ from vertical profile measurements
S. J. Oltmans, L. C. Cheadle, B. J. Johnson, R. C. Schnell, D. Helmig, A. M. Thompson, P. Cullis, E. Hall, A. Jordan, C. Sterling, A. McClure-Begley, J. T. Sullivan, T. J. McGee, D. Wolfe

Research Article
Methane source attribution in a U.S. dry gas basin using spatial patterns of ground and airborne ethane and methane measurements
Ingrid Mielke-Maday, Stefan Schwietzke, Tara Yacovitch, Benjamin Miller, Steve Conley, Jonathan Kofler, Philip Handley, Eryka Thorley, Scott C. Herndon, Bradley Hall, Ed Dlugokencky, Patricia Lang, Sonja Wolter, Eric Moglia, Molly Crotwell, Andrew Crotwell, Michael Rhodes, Duane Kitzis, Timothy Vaughn, Clay Bell, Dan Zimmerle, Russ Schnell, Gabrielle Pétron

Research Article
Estimation of methane emissions from the U.S. ammonia fertilizer industry using a mobile sensing approach
Xiaochi Zhou, Fletcher H. Passow, Joseph Rudek, Joseph C. von Fisher, Steven P. Hamburg, John D. Albertson

Research Article
Emission scenarios of a potential shale gas industry in Germany and the United Kingdom
Lorenzo Cremonese, Lindsey B. Weger, Hugo Denier van der Gon, Marianne Pascale Bartels, Tim Butler

Research Article
Quantifying methane emissions in the Uintah Basin during wintertime stagnation episodes
C. S. Foster, E. T. Crosman, J. D. Horel, S. Lyman, B. Fasoli, R. Bares, J. C. Lin

Practice Bridge
Single-blind inter-comparison of methane detection technologies – results from the Stanford/EDF Mobile Monitoring Challenge
Arvind P. Ravikumar, Sindhu Sreedhara, Jingfan Wang, Jacob Englander, Daniel Roda-Stuart, Clay Bell, Daniel Zimmerle, David Lyon, Isabel Mogstad, Ben Ratner, Adam R. Brandt