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

Collection launched: 27 Mar 2015

Guest Editors

Brian Lamb, Environmental Engineering Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, Washington State University
Stefan Schwietzke, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and University of Colorado

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 the listed guest editor Gabrielle Petron ( as well as 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