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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2019-289
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2019-289
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 19 Aug 2019

Submitted as: research article | 19 Aug 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (AMT).

Testing the near-field Gaussian plume inversion flux quantification technique using unmanned aerial vehicle sampling

Adil Shah1, Joseph R. Pitt1, Hugo Ricketts1,2, J. Brain Leen3, Paul I. Williams1,2, Khristopher Kabbabe4, Martin W. Gallagher1, and Grant Allen1 Adil Shah et al.
  • 1Centre for Atmospheric Science, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, United Kingdom
  • 2National Centre for Atmospheric Science, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, United Kingdom
  • 3ABB – Los Gatos Research, 3055 Orchard Drive, San Jose, CA 95134, California, United States of America
  • 4School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, United Kingdom

Abstract. Methane emission fluxes from facility-scale sources may be poorly quantified, leading to uncertainties in the global methane budget. Accurate atmospheric measurement based flux quantification is urgently required to address this. This paper describes the test of a new near-field Gaussian plume inversion (NGI) technique, suitable for facility-scale flux quantification, using a controlled release of methane gas. Two unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) platforms were used to perform 22 flight surveys downwind of a point-source release of methane gas from a regulated and flow-metered cylinder. One UAV was tethered to an instrument on the ground, while the other UAV carried an on-board high-precision prototype instrument, both of which used the same near-infrared laser technology. The performance of these instruments from UAV sampling is described. Both instruments were calibrated using certified standards, to account for variability in the instrumental gain factor. Furthermore, a modified approach to correcting for the effect of water vapour applied and is described here in detail. The NGI technique was used to derive emission fluxes for each UAV flight survey. We found good agreement of most NGI fluxes with the known controlled emission flux, within uncertainty, verifying the flux quantification methodology. The lower NGI flux uncertainty bound was, on average, 17 % ± 10(1σ) % of the controlled emission flux and the upper NGI flux uncertainty bound was, on average, 218 % ± 100(1σ) % of the controlled emission flux. These highly conservative uncertainty ranges incorporate factors including the variability in the position of the plume and the potential for under-sampling. While these average uncertainties are large compared to methods such as tracer dispersion, we suggest that UAV sampling can be highly complementary to a toolkit of flux approaches and may perform well in situations where site access for tracer release is problematic. We see tracer release applied to UAV sampling as an effective combination in future flux quantification studies. Successful flux quantification using this UAV sampling methodology demonstrates its future utility in identifying and quantifying emissions from methane sources such as oil and gas infrastructure facilities, livestock agriculture and landfill sites, where site access may be difficult.

Adil Shah et al.
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Short summary
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with large flux uncertainties from facility-scale sources, such as natural gas extraction wells. A recently developed flux quantification method was successfully tested by flying an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) downwind of a 22 controlled atmospheric methane releases. The UAVs were used to derive high-precision measurements of methane in the air. The UAV methodology was successful in both detecting the release as well as providing a rough flux estimate.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with large flux uncertainties from facility-scale sources,...
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