Mobile Laboratory Improves Air Quality Measurements in Sublette County

October 25, 2010
Two researchers working in lab
Air Quality Test -- University of Wyoming College of Engineering and Applied Science researchers Jeff Soltis, left, and Rob Field calibrate instruments in the upgraded mobile air quality laboratory. The lab expands capabilities to measure air quality in Sublette County. (UW Photo)

University of Wyoming researchers have a powerful new instrument to monitor air quality levels in Sublette County.

Researchers in the UW College Engineering and Applied Science Department of Atmospheric Science last week unveiled an upgrade of a mobile air quality laboratory that for two years has been used to monitor and help predict high ozone levels in the area.

This upgrade has added a system for measuring for volatile organic compounds, essential for better understanding of ozone formation, says Robert Field, one of the project's principal investigators. This system adds to a suite of standard trace gas monitors and meteorological equipment.

The upgraded laboratory will be deployed later this month at the Pinedale Anticline in Sublette County as part of a project jointly funded by the Pinedale Anticline Project Office and the UW School of Energy Resources (SER).

"For the past two years, Department of Atmospheric Science researchers have conducted important measurements that define the scope of ozone episodes and the behavior of methane, for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ)," Field says.

"Air quality is clearly a concern for new energy development. This mobile laboratory is intended to aid in accurately assessing the impact of development on air quality," says Mark Northam SER director.

The forthcoming measurement campaign, known as the Pinedale Anticline Spatial Air Quality Assessment, is designed to assist the WDEQ Air Quality Division with its air quality management related to the elevated levels of ozone that have been observed in Sublette County, Field says. The project is scheduled to run for two years.

"State-of-the-art trace level measurements that show the distribution of key compounds are essential to understand ozone formation," he says. "Besides the unique laboratory facility, the project will use stainless-steel air sample collection canisters and other passive samplers over a six -month monitoring period."

Another principal investigator, UW Atmospheric Science Professor Derek Montague, says, "The mobile facility provides the significant advantage of being able to measure ozone precursors at multiple sites of interest rather than being restricted to a single location as for stationary laboratories."

This work has added a new emphasis to the traditional work of the Atmospheric Science Department. Department head Al Rodi says the department "always strives to provide the highest quality data whether from aircraft and balloon platforms, or from the upgraded mobile laboratory."


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