Non-Combustion Formaldehyde Study

Principal Investigator: Seth Lyman, Utah State University

During the winters of 2012, 2013, and 2014, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) led a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency study of ozone formation in the Uinta Basin. Among other findings, these studies found that formaldehyde and other carbonyls play a key role in wintertime atmospheric ozone production. There are three main carbonyl sources in the Uinta Basin:

  • Combustion-related Primary Emissions
  • Secondary Atmospheric Formation
  • Non-combustion Primary Emissions

Of these three source types, two—combustion and secondary formation—are fairly well documented. This makes it possible to use that documentation to characterize emissions from those two sources.

However, there is currently no documentation of non-combustion formaldehyde. The 2014 Uinta Basin Ozone Study, in particular, suggested that this non-combustion primary production of formaldehyde is a significant contributor to the emissions inventory. The mechanisms that produce this formaldehyde are unknown, but one possible source is breakdown of methanol-based de-icing products. This project aims to determine sources and emission rates of formaldehyde and other carbonyls from oil and gas equipment in the Uintah Basin, information needed to determine whether reducing primary formaldehyde and carbonyl emissions would be an effective strategy for combating ozone formation in the Basin.

Relevant Documentation