Headline: Modeling the impact of a potential shale gas industry in Germany and the United Kingdom on ozone with WRF-Chem

Germany and the United Kingdom have domestic shale gas reserves which they may exploit in the future to complement their national energy strategies. However gas production releases volatile organic compounds (VOC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which through photochemical reaction form ground-level ozone, an air pollutant that can trigger adverse health effects e.g. on the respiratory system. This study explores the range of impacts of a potential shale gas industry in these two countries on local and regional ambient ozone. To this end, comprehensive emission scenarios are used as the basis for input to an online-coupled regional chemistry transport model (WRF-Chem). Here we simulate shale gas scenarios over summer (June, July, August) 2011, exploring the effects of varying VOC emissions, gas speciation, and concentration of NOx emissions over space and time, on ozone formation. An evaluation of the model setup is performed, which exhibited the model’s ability to predict surface meteorological and chemical variables well compared with observations, and consistent with other studies. When different shale gas scenarios were employed, the results show a peak increase in maximum daily 8-hour average ozone from 3.7 to 28.3 μg m–3. In addition, we find that shale gas emissions can force ozone exceedances at a considerable percentage of regulatory measurement stations locally (up to 21% in Germany and 35% in the United Kingdom) and in distant countries through long-range transport, and increase the cumulative health-related metric SOMO35 (maximum percent increase of ~28%) throughout the region. Findings indicate that VOC emissions are important for ozone enhancement, and to a lesser extent NOx, meaning that VOC regulation for a future European shale gas industry will be of especial importance to mitigate unfavorable health outcomes. Overall our findings demonstrate that shale gas production in Europe can worsen ozone air quality on both the local and regional scales.

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Academic Articles

Weger, L., Lupascu, A., Cremonese, L., & Butler, T. M. (2019). Modeling the impact of a potential shale gas industry in Germany and the United Kingdom on ozone with WRF-Chem. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, 7(1): 49. doi:10.1525/elementa.387.

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Air Quality Modelling for Policy Advice