Articles | Volume 14, issue 16
Special issue:
Research article
22 Aug 2014
Research article |  | 22 Aug 2014

Impact of external industrial sources on the regional and local SO2 and O3 levels of the Mexico megacity

V. H. Almanza, L. T. Molina, G. Li, J. Fast, and G. Sosa

Abstract. The air quality of megacities can be influenced by external emission sources on both global and regional scales. At the same time their outflow emissions can exert an impact to the surrounding environment. The present study evaluates an SO2 peak observed on 24 March 2006 at the suburban supersite T1 and at ambient air quality monitoring stations located in the northern region of the Mexico City Metropolitan Area (MCMA) during the Megacity Initiative: Local and Global Research Observations (MILAGRO) field campaign. We found that this peak could be related to an important episodic emission event coming from Tizayuca region, northeast of the MCMA. Back-trajectory analyses suggest that the emission event started in the early morning at 04:00 LST and lasted for about 9 h. The estimated emission rate is about 2 kg s−1. To the best of our knowledge, sulfur dioxide emissions from the Tizayuca region have not been considered in previous studies. This finding suggests the possibility of "overlooked" emission sources in this region that could influence the air quality of the MCMA. This further motivated us to study the cement plants, including those in the state of Hidalgo and in the State of Mexico. It was found that they can contribute to the SO2 levels in the northeast (NE) region of the basin (about 42%), at the suburban supersite T1 (41%) and that at some monitoring stations their contribution can be even higher than the contribution from the Tula Industrial Complex (TIC).

The contribution of the Tula Industrial Complex to regional ozone levels is estimated. The model suggests low contribution to the MCMA (1 to 4 ppb) and slightly higher contribution at the suburban T1 (6 ppb) and rural T2 (5 ppb) supersites. However, the contribution could be as high as 10 ppb in the upper northwest region of the basin and in the southwest and south-southeast regions of the state of Hidalgo. In addition, the results indicated that the ozone plume could also be transported to northwest Tlaxcala, eastern Hidalgo, and farther northeast of the State of Mexico, but with rather low values. A first estimate of the potential contribution from flaring activities to regional ozone levels is presented. Results suggest that up to 30% of the total regional ozone from TIC could be related to flaring activities.

Finally, the influence on SO2 levels from technological changes in the existing refinery is briefly discussed. These changes are due to the upcoming construction of a new refinery in Tula. The combination of emission reductions in the power plant, the refinery and in local sources in the MCMA could result in higher reductions on the average SO2 concentration. Reductions in external sources tend to affect more the northern part of the basin (−16 to −46%), while reductions of urban sources in the megacity tend to diminish SO2 levels substantially in the central, southwest, and southeast regions (−31 to −50%).

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