Biomass burning emissions and potential air quality impacts of volatile organic compounds and other trace gases from fuels common in the US

J. B. Gilman, B. M. Lerner, W. C. Kuster, P. D. Goldan, C. Warneke, P. R. Veres, J. M. Roberts, J. A. De Gouw, I. R. Burling, R. J. Yokelson

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A comprehensive suite of instruments was used to quantify the emissions of over 200 organic gases, including methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and 9 inorganic gases from 56 laboratory burns of 18 different biomass fuel types common in the southeastern, southwestern, or northern US. A gas chromatograph-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) instrument provided extensive chemical detail of discrete air samples collected during a laboratory burn and was complemented by real-time measurements of organic and inorganic species via an open-path Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (OP-FTIR) instrument and three different chemical ionization-mass spectrometers. These measurements were conducted in February 2009 at the US Department of Agriculture's Fire Sciences Laboratory in Missoula, Montana and were used as the basis for a number of emission factors reported by Yokelson et al. (2013). The relative magnitude and composition of the gases emitted varied by individual fuel type and, more broadly, by the three geographic fuel regions being simulated. Discrete emission ratios relative to carbon monoxide (CO) were used to characterize the composition of gases emitted by mass; reactivity with the hydroxyl radical, OH; and potential secondary organic aerosol (SOA) precursors for the 3 different US fuel regions presented here. VOCs contributed less than 0.78 % ± 0.12 % of emissions by mole and less than 0.95 % × 0.07 % of emissions by mass (on average) due to the predominance of CO2, CO, CH4, and NOx emissions; however, VOCs contributed 70-90 (±16) % to OH reactivity and were the only measured gas-phase source of SOA precursors from combustion of biomass. Over 82 % of the VOC emissions by mole were unsaturated compounds including highly reactive alkenes and aromatics and photolabile oxygenated VOCs (OVOCs) such as formaldehyde. OVOCs contributed 57-68 % of the VOC mass emitted, 41-54 % of VOC-OH reactivity, and aromatic-OVOCs such as benzenediols, phenols, and benzaldehyde were the dominant potential SOA precursors. In addition, ambient air measurements of emissions from the Fourmile Canyon Fire that affected Boulder, Colorado in September 2010 allowed us to investigate biomass burning (BB) emissions in the presence of other VOC sources (i.e., urban and biogenic emissions) and identify several promising BB markers including benzofuran, 2-furaldehyde, 2-methylfuran, furan, and benzonitrile.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13915-13938
Number of pages24
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 17 2015


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