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Atmospheric impacts of oil and gas development: what can we learn from observations

Speaker: Gabrielle Petron, Research Scientist, NOAA's Earth System Research Lab (ESRL) and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)
Series: CEE Departmental Seminars
Location: Bowen Hall Auditorium
Date/Time: Monday, November 4, 2013, 4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.


The unconventional oil and natural gas revolution in the US has reversed the decline trend in terms of oil and natural gas domestic production. With a boom in exploration, drilling and production operations across many States over the past ten years, there is an urgent need to better assess the environmental impacts of these industrial activities. Natural gas and oil are made of a mix of hydrocarbons and some varying levels of contaminants. Methane is the primary constituent of natural gas and is also a potent greenhouse gas. The non-methane hydrocarbons present in the raw gas or emitted together with NOx by on-road or off-road engines are surface ozone precursors. Most of the work conducted by the NOAA Global Monitoring Division has focused on the Rocky Mountain region, where emissions of VOCs and NOx from oil and gas operations contribute to surface ozone pollution events in the summertime or wintertime. With a combination of long-term air composition measurements from towers and aircraft and intensive campaigns at the surface and airborne, NOAA GMD and collaborators have provided independent information on regional emissions of methane and VOCs. We will review what has been learned so far, identify some key knowledge gaps and propose a multi-disciplinary multi-stakeholder approach to optimize the benefits of "clean" natural gas.


Gabrielle Petron studied Earth Sciences at Ecole Normale d'Ulm in Paris, France. She earned a PhD in Atmospheric Sciences from the Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris (2003), developing a global scale inverse modeling system for carbon monoxide emissions in collaboration with NCAR researchers. She has been at the University of Colorado and NOAA Global Monitoring Division since 2005, pursuing her passion for Earth data analysis and using NOAA atmospheric measurements to study natural and anthropogenic emissions of air pollutants including climate forcers.