Tracking petroleum refinery emission events using lanthanum and lanthanides as elemental markers for PM2.5. Academic Article uri icon


  • Fine particulate matter levels at four air sampling stations in the Houston, TX area are apportioned to quantify the impact of emissions from a local refinery during a reported emission event. Through quantification of lanthanum and lanthanides using a recently developed analytical technique, the impacts of emissions from fluidized-bed catalytic cracking (FCC) units are quantitatively tracked across the Houston region. The results show a significant (33-106-fold) increase in contributions of FCC emissions to PM2.5 compared with background levels associated with routine operation. This impact from industrial emissions to ambient air quality occurs simultaneously with a larger, regional haze episode that lead to elevated PM2.5 concentrations throughout the entire region. By focusing on detailed chemical analysis of unique maker metals (lanthanum and lanthanides), the impact of emissions from the FCC unit was tracked from the local refinery that reported the emission event to a site approximately 50 km downwind, illustrating the strength of the analytical method to isolate an important source during a regional haze episode not related to the emission event. While this source apportionment technique could separate contributions from FCC emissions, improved time-resolved sampling is proposed to more precisely quantify the impacts of transient emission events on ambient PM2.5.

published proceedings

  • Environ Sci Technol

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Kulkarni, P., Chellam, S., & Fraser, M. P.

citation count

  • 76

complete list of authors

  • Kulkarni, Pranav||Chellam, Shankararaman||Fraser, Matthew P

publication date

  • October 2007