Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2021-622
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2021-622

  09 Aug 2021

09 Aug 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Using carbon-14 and carbon-13 measurements for source attribution of atmospheric methane in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region

Regina Gonzalez Moguel1, Felix Vogel2, Sébastien Ars2, Hinrich Schaefer3, Jocelyn Turnbull4,5, and Peter Douglas1 Regina Gonzalez Moguel et al.
  • 1Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, McGill University; GEOTOP research center
  • 2Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • 3National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research of New Zealand
  • 4GNS Science, New Zealand
  • 5CIRES, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA

Abstract. The rapidly expanding and energy intensive production from the Canadian oil sands, one of the largest oil reserves globally, accounts for almost 12 % of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions according to inventories. Developing approaches for evaluating reported methane (CH4) emission is crucial for developing effective mitigation policies, but only one study has characterized CH4 sources in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR). We tested the use of 14C and 13C carbon isotope measurements in ambient CH4 from the AOSR to estimate source contributions from key regional CH4 sources: (1) tailings ponds, (2) surface mines and processing facilities, and (3) wetlands. The isotopic signatures of ambient CH4 indicate that the CH4 enrichments measured at the site were mainly influenced by fossil CH4 emissions from surface mining and processing facilities (53 ± 18 %), followed by fossil CH4 emissions from tailings ponds (36 ± 18 %), and to a lesser extent by modern CH4 emissions from wetlands (10 < 1 %). Our results confirm the importance of tailings ponds in regional CH4 emissions and show that this method can successfully separate wetland CH4 emissions. In the future, the isotopic characterization of CH4 sources, and measurements from different seasons and wind directions are needed to provide a better source attribution in the AOSR.

Regina Gonzalez Moguel et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on acp-2021-622', Eric Saboya, 22 Sep 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on acp-2021-622', Anonymous Referee #2, 24 Sep 2021

Regina Gonzalez Moguel et al.

Regina Gonzalez Moguel et al.

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Short summary
Evaluating methane (CH4) sources in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR) is crucial to effectively mitigate CH4 emissions. We tested the use of carbon isotopes to estimate source contributions from key CH4 sources in the AOSR and found that 53 ± 18 % of CH4 emissions originated from surface mining and processing facilities, 36 ± 18 % from tailings ponds, and 10 < 1 % from wetlands, confirming previous findings and showing that this method can be successfully used to partition CH4 sources.
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