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UW’s Robert Field Invited to Speak at European Environmental Conference

May 20, 2013
Man with air testing equipment
UW researcher Robert Field will discuss the importance of monitoring to inform actual air quality impacts during his talk at the Green Week conference in Brussels, Belgium. (CEAS Photo)

University of Wyoming atmospheric scientist Robert Field will assess the impact of unconventional gas development on air quality at the Green Week 2013 conference June 4-7 in Brussels, Belgium.

The conference theme, "Cleaner Air for All,” is the European Commission's annual event devoted to environmental challenges and European Union (EU) policies designed to address them. Last year’s conference attracted more than 3,300 participants, including more than 100 journalists from throughout Europe.

“Unconventional natural gas production is the most important emerging trend in world energy supply,” Field says. “In the coming years, the extensive experience gained by the United States, both good and bad, is likely to transfer to Europe. It is important to understand emission sources to inform analysis of potential air quality impacts.”

Field will outline emission sources and discuss the importance of monitoring to inform actual air quality impacts. He also will highlight UW research in the Pinedale Anticline. For the past four years, UW’s Department of Atmospheric Science has supported state efforts to better understand winter ozone formation.

Most of the recent growth in supply from today’s recoverable gas resources is found in unconventional geological formations, Field says. Unconventional gas reservoirs include tight gas, coal bed methane and shale gas.

“The technological breakthroughs in horizontal drilling and fracturing have made shale and other unconventional gas supplies economically and commercially viable for Wyoming’s natural gas production efforts,” Field says. “The monitoring of air quality and UW’s research efforts will continue to be important to energy extractive activities in Wyoming.”

Field previously served on European expert panels that considered air pollution measurement methodologies. In 2002, after helping to create the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources at UW, he returned to Europe to work for the European Reference Laboratory of Air Pollution based in Italy. He co-managed the Population Exposure to Air Pollutants in Europe project that assessed the applicability of regulatory monitoring sites to indicate population exposure to air pollution.

In 2006, he returned to UW and established the first mobile laboratory to be used for air quality monitoring in Wyoming. The laboratory was set up for the emerging issue of wintertime ozone in Sublette County. The laboratory also was deployed in Converse County for background air monitoring. The Pinedale Anticline research is based on the use of vehicle-based monitoring to better understand the spatial variation of methane and other pollutants associated with natural gas exploration.

Green Week organizers say that despite progress in recent years, several air quality standards are still widely exceeded in the EU's most densely populated areas, especially from pollutants such as particulate matter, ground-level ozone and nitrogen dioxide. In Europe and across the world, air quality is becoming increasingly an issue of concern.

“2013 will be a year in which current air policy is reviewed, with a focus on finding ways to improve the quality of the air we breathe,” the organizers say.

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