The Alberta oilsands in Canada have been identified as a huge regional source of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) in a large scale study by Environment Canada.
Oil extraction produces large amounts of low volatility hydrocarbon vapour, which produces SOA following atmospheric processing. The study involved aircraft sampling with over 100 hours of flying time through downwind plumes from the mining operations, combined with Lagrangian modelling, to determine SOA concentration and production rates. The study estimates 45 to 84 tonnes of SOA is formed daily by the oil sands, sometimes exceeding total estimated production from Toronto, Canada’s largest city. Significant ongoing SOA production was observed within the plume, since as the plume spread the amount of SOA remained relatively steady, while dilution reduced primary particle concentrations (black carbon and sulphate aerosols).
SOA production should be built into subsequent environmental impact evaluations for this site and other similar operations, the authors claim.
Read the full report at Metro News Canada