The US Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled a remotely piloted airship at Chandler downtown airport in Bakersfield, Calif., that will be used this winter to gather data on San Joaquin Valley oil and gas field air emissions.
Better than airplanes
The 30-ft long, 8-ft diameter, lighter-than-air craft, dubbed Clean Airship 1, is designed to float in stagnant air, gathering data on pollutants without disturbing air patterns, something airplanes cannot do. It also can collect data when aircraft would be grounded by fog.
The craft was designed and built with the help of $100,000 from DOE, $50,000 from the Western States Petroleum Association, and $25,000 from Tracer Environmental Sciences & Technologies Inc., San Marcos, Calif.
It will be used in a series of air-quality studies to measure the concentrations of airborne particles and ozone in California's Central Valley.
The studies are part of two projects, the California Regional PM10/PM2.5 Air Quality and the Central California Ozone Studies, which together cost $44.5 million.
The Central California Air Quality Coalition is conducting the research on the sources and movement of air pollutants. The coalition consists of state, federal, and local air-quality agencies along with agricultural, oil and gas, and other industry groups.
DOE said the PM10/PM2.5 study will measure particulates either 10 or 2.5
Ozone is created from nitrogen oxides or hydrocarbons that are emitted from internal combustion engines and other combustion processes. At low altitudes, ozone can contribute to smog and haze, while particulate matter can also cause visibility and respiratory problems.
DOE said the research will try to determine how emissions from oil and gas fields contribute to overall atmospheric concentrations of these pollutants.
It said, "A better understanding of the sources and behavior of these emissions will provide more scientifically sound data for regulatory decisions. It will also allow oil and gas field operators to adjust their operations to minimize adverse impacts on air quality.
"The data will be especially valuable during winter months, when stagnant air conditions and fog often result in high concentrations of pollutants."
The airship can take readings at altitudes of up to 2,000 ft and transmit the data to computers on the ground. Onboard detectors can measure pollutant concentrations as low as 5/100 ppb.
It will have an electron capture detector that can analyze tracer plumes, each with a distinct chemical signature, from oil and gas field operations.
After flight readiness tests are completed, data collection flights will occur between December 2000 and February 2001.