Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Attribution of primary formaldehyde and sulfur dioxide at Texas City during SHARP/formaldehyde and olefins from large industrial releases (FLAIR) using an adjoint chemistry transport model



[1] An adjoint version of the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) neighborhood air quality model with 200 m horizontal resolution, coupled offline to the Quick Urban & Industrial Complex (QUIC-URB) fast response urban wind model, was used to perform 4-D variational (4Dvar) inverse modeling of an industrial release of formaldehyde (HCHO) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) in Texas City, Texas during the 2009 Study of Houston Atmospheric Radical Precursors (SHARP). The source attribution was based on real-time observations by the Aerodyne mobile laboratory and a high resolution 3-D digital model of the emitting petrochemical complex and surrounding urban canopy. The inverse model estimate of total primary HCHO emitted during the incident agrees very closely with independent remote sensing estimates based on both Imaging and Multi-Axis Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy (DOAS). Whereas a previous analysis of Imaging DOAS data attributed the HCHO release to a Fluidized Catalytic Cracking Unit (FCCU), the HARC model attributed most of the HCHO event emissions to both the FCCU and desulfurization processes. Fugitives contributed significantly to primary HCHO, as did combustion processes, whereas the latter accounted for most SO2 event emissions. The inferred HCHO-to-SO2 molar emission ratio was similar to that computed directly from ambient air measurements during the release. The model-estimated HCHO-to-CO molar emission ratio for combustion units with significant inferred emissions ranged from 2% to somewhat less than 7%, consistent with other observationally-based estimates obtained during SHARP. A model sensitivity study demonstrated that the inclusion of urban morphology has a significant, but not critical, impact on the source attribution.