Methane emissions from an oil sands tailings pond: a quantitative comparison of fluxes derived by different methods

You, Yuan; Staebler, Ralf M.; Moussa, Samar G.; Beck, James; Mittermeier, Richard L.

Tailings ponds in the Alberta oil sands region are significant sources of fugitive emissions of methane to the atmosphere, but detailed knowledge on spatial and temporal variabilities is lacking due to limitations of the methods deployed under current regulatory compliance monitoring programs. To develop more robust and representative methods for quantifying fugitive emissions, three micrometeorological flux methods (eddy covariance, gradient, and inverse dispersion) were applied along with traditional flux chambers to determine fluxes over a 5-week period. Eddy covariance flux measurements provided the benchmark. A method is presented to directly calculate stability-corrected eddy diffusivities that can be applied to vertical gas profiles for gradient flux estimation. Gradient fluxes were shown to agree with eddy covariance within 18 %, while inverse dispersion model flux estimates were 30 % lower. Fluxes were shown to have only a minor diurnal cycle (15 % variability) and were weakly dependent on wind speed, air, and water surface temperatures. Flux chambers underestimated the fluxes by 64 % in this particular campaign. The results show that the larger footprint together with high temporal resolution of micrometeorological flux measurement methods may result in more robust estimates of the pond greenhouse gas emissions.

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You, Yuan / Staebler, Ralf M. / Moussa, Samar G. / et al: Methane emissions from an oil sands tailings pond: a quantitative comparison of fluxes derived by different methods. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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