Variability in industrial hydrocarbon emissions and its impact on ozone formation in Houston, Texas

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2007

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Ambient observations have indicated that ozone formation in the Houston area is frequently faster and more efficient, with respect to NOx consumed, than other urban areas in the country. It is believed that these unique characteristics of ozone formation in the Houston area are associated with the plumes of reactive hydrocarbons, emanating from the industrial Houston Ship Channel area. Thus, accurate quantification of industrial emissions, particularly of reactive hydrocarbons, is critical to effectively address the rapid ozone formation and the consequent high levels of ozone in the area. Industrial emissions of hydrocarbons have significant temporal variability as evidenced by various measurements, but they have been assumed to be continuous at constant levels for air quality regulation and photochemical modeling studies. This thesis examines the effect of emission variability from industrial sources on ozone formation in the HoustonGalveston area. Both discrete emission events and variability in continuous emissions are examined; new air quality modeling tools have been developed to perform these analyses. Also, this thesis evaluates the impact of emission variability on the effectiveness of emission control strategies in the Houston-Galveston area. Overall, the results indicate that industrial emission variability plays a substantial role in ozone formation and that controlling emission variability can be effective in ozone reduction. These results suggest that a quantitative treatment of emission variability should be included in the development of air quality plans for regions with extensive industrial activity, such as Houston.

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