Approaching Cumulative Effects through Air Pollution Modelling
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The research presented here represents a segment of a cumulative impact assessment of resource development in northeastern British Columbia. It considers point and area source emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides (SO2 and NO x , respectively), over a 2,156-km2 area. With the exception of open burning, all emissions are from Upstream Oil and Gas (UOG) sector sources (SO2, n = 103; NO x , n = 250; area, n = 25). AERMOD View™ was used to estimate the maximum potential concentration and deposition of these pollutants over 1-h, 3-h, 24-h, and annual averaging periods. Results are compared with various thresholds and limits from the policy and scientific literature to assess the potential cumulative effects of these pollutants. Of the thresholds employed, exceedances of the 1-h and 24-h NO x concentrations and the annual SO2 concentration are predicted. There were no predicted exceedances of annual deposition thresholds (i.e., “Critical Loads”). Maximum predicted concentrations vary between compounds and are related to boundary layer stability, elevation, and distance from sources. Comparison with nearby monitoring data indicated that predicted concentrations were reasonable and that AERMOD provides a useful tool for approaching the potential cumulative impacts of air pollution from multiple sources. While the accuracy of Gaussian-based annual deposition estimates is questioned, model enhancements that could extend the application to more comprehensive assessments are suggested. Lastly, the implications of predicted threshold violations for forest ecosystems and local forest-dependent First Nations communities are discussed.
KeywordsSulphur and nitrogen oxides AERMOD Upstream oil and gas Air quality standards Critical loads Cumulative impacts
Thanks to David Niemi and Roy McArthur of Environment Canada for providing emissions data, Michael Rensing BC Ministry of the Environment for providing CMAQ_ACE data, Judy Chow of the Desert Research Institute for guidance on particulate size fractions, Jason Redman of Lakes Environmental for outstanding technical support, Rob Kemp of Levelton Engineering and Peter Reid of Jaques Whitford for discussions on flare stack parameters, Wayne Boulton and Michael VanAltena of RWDI for their time and technical guidance, Roland Stull for sharing his wisdom on atmospheric processes, and John Innes for his support and helpful comments on the manuscript.
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