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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.

  07 Aug 2020

07 Aug 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Methane mapping, emission quantification and attribution in two European cities; Utrecht, NL and Hamburg, DE

Hossein Maazallahi1,2, Julianne M. Fernandez3, Malika Menoud1, Daniel Zavala-Araiza1,4, Zachary D. Weller5, Stefan Schwietzke6, Joseph C. von Fischer7, Hugo Denier van der Gon2, and Thomas Röckmann1 Hossein Maazallahi et al.
  • 1Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research Utrecht (IMAU), Utrecht University (UU), Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 2Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 3Department of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London (RHUL), Egham, United Kingdom
  • 4Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 5Department of Statistics, Colorado State University (CSU), United States of America
  • 6Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Berlin, Germany
  • 7Department of Biology, Colorado State University (CSU), United States of America

Abstract. Characterizing and attributing methane (CH4) emissions across varying scales is important from environmental, safety, and economic perspectives, and is essential for designing and evaluating effective mitigation strategies. Mobile real-time measurements of CH4 in ambient air offer a fast and effective method to identify and quantify local CH4 emissions in urban areas. We carried out extensive campaigns to measure CH4 mole fractions at the street level in Utrecht, The Netherlands (2018 and 2019) and Hamburg, Germany (2018). One hundred and forty five leak indications (LIs, i.e., methane enhancements of more than 10 % above background levels) were detected in Hamburg and 81 in Utrecht. Measurements of the ethane / methane ratio (C2 / C1), methane / carbon dioxide ratio (CH4 / CO2), and CH4 isotope composition (δ13C and δD) show that in Hamburg about 1/3 of the LIs, and in Utrecht 2/3 of the LIs (based on a limited set of C2/C1 measurements), were of fossil fuel origin. We find that in both cities the largest emission rates in the identified LI distribution are from fossil fuel sources. In Hamburg, the lower emission rates in the identified LI distribution are often associated with biogenic characteristics, and partly combustion. Extrapolation of detected LI rates along the roads driven to the gas distribution pipes in the entire road network yields total emissions from sources that can be quantified in the street-level surveys of 440 ± 70 t/yr from all sources in Hamburg, and 150 ± 50 t/yr for Utrecht. In Hamburg, C2/C1, CH4/CO2, and isotope-based source attribution analyses shows that 50–80 % of all emissions originate from the natural gas distribution network, in Utrecht more limited attribution indicates that 70–90 % of the emissions are of fossil origin. Our results confirm previous observations that a few large LIs, creating a heavy tail, are responsible for a significant proportion of fossil CH4 emissions. In Utrecht, 1/3 of total emissions originated from one LI and in Hamburg > 1/4 from 2 LIs. In Hamburg, the local gas utility detected only 20 % of the LIs that were identified as from a fossil source, but the largest leaks were located and fixed quickly once the LIs were shared.

Hossein Maazallahi et al.

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Status: open (until 10 Oct 2020)
Status: open (until 10 Oct 2020)
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Hossein Maazallahi et al.

Data sets

Utrecht and Hamburg city measurements data Maazallahi, H., Fernandez, J. M., Menoud, M., Zavala-Araiza, D., Weller, Z. D., Schwietzke, S., von Fischer, J. C., Denier van der Gon, H., and Röckmann, T.

Model code and software

MATLAB® code for evaluation of Urban Surveys Maazallahi, H.

Hossein Maazallahi et al.


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Latest update: 29 Sep 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Methane accounts for ~ 25 % of current climate warming. The current lack of methane measurements is a barrier for tracking major sources, which are key for near-term climate mitigation. We use mobile measurements to identify and quantify methane emission sources in Utrecht (NL) and Hamburg (DE) with a focus on natural gas pipeline leaks. The measurements resulted in fixing the major leaks by the local utility, but coordinated efforts are needed at national levels for further emission reductions.
Methane accounts for ~ 25 % of current climate warming. The current lack of methane measurements...