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Surface ozone in the Colorado northern Front Range and the influence of oil and gas development during FRAPPE/DISCOVER-AQ in summer 2014


High mixing ratios of ozone (O3) in the northern Front Range (NFR) of Colorado are not limited to the urban Denver area but were also observed in rural areas where oil and gas activity is the primary source of O3 precursors. On individual days, oil and gas O3 precursors can contribute in excess of 30 ppb to O3 growth and can lead to exceedances of the EPA O3 National Ambient Air Quality Standard. Data used in this study were gathered from continuous surface O3 monitors for June–August 2013–2015 as well as additional flask measurements and mobile laboratories that were part of the FRAPPE/DISCOVER-AQ field campaign of July–August 2014. Overall observed O3 levels during the summer of 2014 were lower than in 2013, likely due to cooler and damper weather than an average summer. This study determined the median hourly surface O3 mixing ratio in the NFR on summer days with limited photochemical production to be approximately 45–55 ppb. Mobile laboratory and flask data collected on three days provide representative case studies of different O3 formation environments in and around Greeley, Colorado. Observations of several gases (including methane, ethane, CO, nitrous oxide) along with O3 are used to identify sources of O3 precursor emissions. A July 23 survey demonstrated low O3 (45–60 ppb) while August 3 and August 13 surveys recorded O3 levels of 75–80 ppb or more. August 3 exemplifies influence of moderate urban and high oil and gas O3 precursor emissions. August 13 demonstrates high oil and gas emissions, low agricultural emissions, and CO measurements that were well correlated with ethane from oil and gas, suggesting an oil and gas related activity as a NOx and O3 precursor source. Low isoprene levels indicated that they were not a significant contributor to O3 precursors measured during the case studies.

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