Characterization of interferences to in situ observations of δ13CH4 and C2H6 when using a cavity ring-down spectrometer at industrial sites
Abstract. Due to increased demand for an understanding of CH4 emissions from industrial sites, the subject of cross sensitivities caused by absorption from multiple gases on δ13CH4 and C2H6 measured in the near-infrared spectral domain using CRDS has become increasingly important. Extensive laboratory tests are presented here, which characterize these cross sensitivities and propose corrections for the biases they induce. We found methane isotopic measurements to be subject to interference from elevated C2H6 concentrations resulting in heavier δ13CH4 by +23.5 ‰ per ppm C2H6 ∕ ppm CH4. Measured C2H6 is subject to absorption interference from a number of other trace gases, predominantly H2O (with an average linear sensitivity of 0.9 ppm C2H6 per % H2O in ambient conditions). Yet, this sensitivity was found to be discontinuous with a strong hysteresis effect and we suggest removing H2O from gas samples prior to analysis. The C2H6 calibration factor was calculated using a GC and measured as 0.5 (confirmed up to 5 ppm C2H6). Field tests at a natural gas compressor station demonstrated that the presence of C2H6 in gas emissions at an average level of 0.3 ppm shifted the isotopic signature by 2.5 ‰, whilst after calibration we find that the average C2H6 : CH4 ratio shifts by +0.06. These results indicate that, when using such a CRDS instrument in conditions of elevated C2H6 for CH4 source determination, it is imperative to account for the biases discussed within this study.