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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  26 May 2020

26 May 2020

Review status
This preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Methane emissions from an oil sands tailings pond: A quantitative comparison of fluxes derived by different methods

Yuan You1,a, Ralf M. Staebler1, Samar G. Moussa1, James Beck2, and Richard L. Mittermeier1 Yuan You et al.
  • 1Air Quality Research Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), Toronto, M3H 5T4, Canada
  • 2Suncor Energy Inc., Calgary, T2P 3Y7, Canada
  • anow at: Department of Physics, University of Toronto, Toronto, M5S 1A7, Canada

Abstract. Tailings ponds in the Alberta Oil Sands Region are significant sources of fugitive emissions of methane to the atmosphere, but detailed knowledge on spatial and temporal variabilities is lacking due to limitations of the methods deployed under current regulatory compliance monitoring programs. To develop more robust and representative methods for quantifying these emissions, three micrometeorological flux methods were applied along with traditional flux chambers to determine fluxes over a 5-week period. Eddy covariance flux measurements provided the benchmark. A method is presented to directly calculate stability-corrected eddy diffusivities that can be applied to vertical gas profiles for gradient flux estimation. Gradient fluxes were shown to agree with eddy covariance within 7 %, and inverse dispersion model fluxes within 11 %, with an overall uncertainty of 28 % for the calculated mean flux. Fluxes were shown to have only a minor diurnal cycle (18 % variability) and to be mostly independent of wind speed, air and water surface temperatures. Flux chambers underestimated the fluxes by a factor of 2 in this particular campaign. These measurements indicate that the larger footprint of micrometeorological measurements results in more robust emission estimates representing the whole pond.

Yuan You et al.

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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Yuan You et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Tailings ponds in the Alberta Oil Sands can be significant sources of methane, an important greenhouse gas. This paper describes a one-month study conducted in 2017 to measure methane emissions from a pond using a variety of sophisticated micrometeorological flux methods, and demonstrates the advantages of these methods over flux chambers.
Tailings ponds in the Alberta Oil Sands can be significant sources of methane, an important...