Ethane measurement by Picarro CRDS G2201-i in laboratory and field conditions: potential and limitations

Atmospheric ethane can be used as a tracer to distinguish methane sources, both at the local and global scale. Currently, ethane can be measured in the field using flasks or in situ analyzers. In our study, we characterized the CRDS Picarro G2201-i instrument, originally designed to measure isotopic CH4 and CO2, for measurements of ethane-to-methane ratio in mobile-measurement scenarios, near sources and under field conditions. We evaluated the limitations and potential of using the CRDS G2201-i to measure the ethane-to-methane ratio, thus extending the instrument application to simultaneously measure two methane source proxies in the field: carbon isotopic ratio and the ethane-to-methane ratio. First, laboratory tests were run to characterize the instrument in stationary conditions. Subsequently, the instrument performance was tested in field conditions as part of a controlled release experiment. Finally, the instrument was tested during mobile measurements focused on gas compressor stations. The results from the field were afterwards compared with the results obtained from instruments specifically designed for ethane measurements. Our study shows the potential of using the CRDS G2201-i instrument in a mobile configuration to determine the ethane-to-methane ratio in methane plumes under measurement conditions with an ethane uncertainty of 50 ppb. Assuming typical ethane-to-methane ratios ranging between 0 and 0.1 ppb ppb(-1), we conclude that the instrument can accurately estimate the "true" ethane-to-methane ratio within 1 sigma uncertainty when CH4 enhancements are at least 1 ppm, as can be found in the vicinity of strongly emitting sites such as natural gas compressor stations and roadside gas pipeline leaks.


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Authors: Defratyka, Sara M., Paris, Jean-Daniel, Yver-Kwok, Camille, Loeb, Daniel, France, James ORCIDORCID record for James France, Helmore, Jon, Yarrow, Nigel, Gros, Valérie, Bousquet, Philippe

On this site: James France
27 July, 2021
Atmospheric Measurement Techniques / 14
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