Analysis of non-methane hydrocarbon data from a monitoring station affected by oil and gas development in the Eagle Ford shale, Texas Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract Within the last decade, unconventional oil and gas exploration in the US has become a new source of atmospheric hydrocarbons. Although a geographically dispersed source, field measurements in and downwind of a number of shale basins demonstrate the impact exploration activities have on ambient levels of hydrocarbons. Due to concerns related to ozone production, regulatory agencies are adding monitoring stations to better understand the potential influence of emissions from areas with increased oil and gas related activities. The Eagle Ford shale in south Texas is a rapidly developing shale play producing both oil and natural gas, providing 10% and 5% of US domestic oil and gas production, respectively, in 2013. We analyzed the first year of measurements from a newly established monitoring site at its central north edge. The data reveal median ethane mixing ratiosused as a marker for oil and gas exploration related emissionsat five times its typical clean air background. Ethane mixing ratios above ten times the background occurred regularly. Saturated hydrocarbons with likely origin in oil and gas exploration explain half of the data sets variability. They dominate OH radical reactivity at levels both similar to other shale areas and similar to Houstons ship channel area a decade ago. Air advecting slowly across the shale area from east-southeast and southwest directions shows the most elevated hydrocarbon concentrations, and evidence is presented linking elevated alkene abundances to flaring in the shale area. A case study is presented linking high emissions from an upwind facility to hydrocarbon plumes observed at the monitor.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 89.3

author list (cited authors)

  • Schade, G. W., & Roest, G.

citation count

  • 30

complete list of authors

  • Schade, Gunnar W||Roest, Geoffrey

editor list (cited editors)

  • Helmig, D., & Griffin, M.

publication date

  • January 2016