Atmospheric measurement of point source fossil CO2 emissions


South-West Pacific
Objective 2


We use the Kapuni Gas Treatment Plant to examine methodologies for atmospheric monitoring of point source fossil fuel CO2 (CO2ff) emissions. The Kapuni plant, located in rural New Zealand, removes CO2 from locally extracted natural gas and vents that CO2 to the atmosphere, at a rate of ~0.1 Tg carbon per year. The plant is located in a rural dairy farming area, with no other significant CO2ff sources nearby, but large, diurnally varying, biospheric CO2 fluxes from the surrounding highly productive agricultural grassland. We made flask measurements of CO2 and 14CO2 (from which we derive the CO2ff component) and in situ measurements of CO2 downwind of the Kapuni plant, using a Helikite to sample transects across the emission plume from the surface up to 100 m a.g.l. We also determined the surface CO2ff content averaged over several weeks from the 14CO2 content of grass samples collected from the surrounding area. We use the WindTrax plume dispersion model to compare the atmospheric observations with the emissions reported by the Kapuni plant, and to determine how well atmospheric measurements can constrain the emissions. The model has difficulty accurately capturing the fluctuations and short-term variability in the Helikite samples, but does quite well in representing the observed CO2ff in 15 min averaged surface flask samples and in ~1 week integrated CO2ff averages from grass samples. In this pilot study, we found that using grass samples, the modeled and observed CO2ff emissions averaged over one week agreed to within 30%. The results imply that greater verification accuracy may be achieved by including more detailed meteorological observations and refining 14CO2 sampling strategies.