Application of an adjoint neighborhood-scale chemistry transport model to the attribution of primary formaldehyde at Lynchburg Ferry during TexAQS II


Corresponding author: E. P. Olaguer, Houston Advanced Research Center, 4800 Research Forest Dr., The Woodlands, TX 77381, USA. (


[1] During the 2006 Second Texas Air Quality Study (TexAQS II) field study, ambient mixing ratios of formaldehyde (HCHO) up to 52 ppbv were observed at Lynchburg Ferry in the Houston Ship Channel on the morning of 27 September 2006. These elevated mixing ratios coincided with a flare event during a sequential planned shutdown of a petrochemical facility ~8 km from the monitoring site. An adjoint version of the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) neighborhood air quality model was used to perform 4-D variational inverse modeling of industrial emissions of HCHO and other ozone precursors based on Lynchburg Ferry observations. The simulation employed a horizontal domain size and grid resolution of 8 km × 8 km and 400 m, and was conducted for a 1.5 h period (8–9:30 A.M.) during which the highest HCHO concentrations were recorded. The event emissions of ethene and propene computed by the inverse model are consistent with the largest estimated emissions for the facility in question derived from the Solar Occultation Flux technique during TexAQS II. Moreover, the computed peak flare emissions of HCHO during the shutdown event were around 282 kg/h, which is less than but comparable in magnitude to the largest area-wide total (primary plus secondary) formaldehyde flux from the Houston Ship Channel measured by Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy during TexAQS II. The estimated flare event emissions of primary formaldehyde are roughly 50 times larger than HCHO emissions from flares used in routine operations, as inferred from remote sensing and/or real-time in situ measurements during the 2009 SHARP campaign.