Evaluating Bay Area Methane Emission Inventory

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As a regulatory agency, evaluating and improving estimates of methane (CH4) emissions from the San Francisco Bay Area is an area of interest to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD). Currently, regional, state, and federal agencies generally estimate methane emissions using bottom-up inventory methods that rely on a combination of activity data, emission factors, biogeochemical models and other information. Recent atmospheric top-down measurement estimates of methane emissions for the US as a whole (e.g., Miller et al., 2013) and in California (e.g., Jeong et al., 2013; Peischl et al., 2013) have shown inventories underestimate total methane emissions by ~ 50% in many areas of California, including the SF Bay Area (Fairley and Fischer, 2015).

The goal of this research is to provide information to help improve methane emission estimates for the San Francisco Bay Area. The research effort builds upon our previous work that produced methane emission maps for each of the major source sectors as part of the California Greenhouse Gas Emissions Measurement (CALGEM) project (http://calgem.lbl.gov/prior_emission.html; Jeong et al., 2012; Jeong et al., 2013; Jeong et al., 2014). Working with BAAQMD, we evaluate the existing inventory in light of recently published literature and revise the CALGEM CH4 emission maps to provide better specificity for BAAQMD. We also suggest further research that will improve emission estimates. To accomplish the goals, we reviewed the current BAAQMD inventory, and compared its method with those from the state inventory from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the CALGEM inventory, and recent published literature. We also updated activity data (e.g., livestock statistics) to reflect recent changes and to better represent spatial information. Then, we produced spatially explicit CH4 emission estimates on the 1-km modeling grid used by BAAQMD. We present the detailed activity data, methods and derived emission maps by sector.

In total, we estimate the anthropogenic emissions for BAAQMD to be 116.4 Gg (1 Gg = 109 g) CH4/yr, with a likely uncertainty of ~ 50% or more (e.g., NRC, 2010; US-EPA, 2015). Including the emissions from wetland (Jeong et al., 2013), the total CH4 emission estimate for BAAQMD is 120.1 Gg CH4/yr. Table 1 summarizes the estimated CH4 emissions for 2011 by sector. The sectors were categorized following those that are used in recent regional emission quantification studies (e.g., Jeong et al., 2013; Peischl et al., 2013; Wecht et al., 2014). However, we note that this result is marginally lower than the top-down estimate of 240 ± 60 Gg CH4/yr (at 95% confidence) reported by Fairley and Fischer (2015), suggesting some combination of systematic error in the top-down estimate, underestimation of emissions from known sources, or as yet unidentified sources may be present.

With respect to the relative contributions from different source sectors, the CH4 emissions from the region are dominated by urban activities. Landfill emissions represent 53% of the District’s total emission followed by livestock (16%) and natural gas (15%). These three dominant sectors account for 84% of the total anthropogenic emission in BAAQMD. This suggests that mitigation efforts need to focus on these three sources. Figure 1 shows the gridded anthropogenic CH4 emissions on the BAAQMD’s 1-km grid. In general, the spatial pattern of emissions follows the density of population while strong point sources are also distributed in the rural areas of the District. Detailed methods and emissions for each sector and county are described in the following sections.

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