Weatherford Democrat

Local News

August 8, 2007

TCEQ helicopters hovering over oil, gas equipment

Looking for unreported, under-reported emissions

Special to the Democrat

Beginning the second week in August, residents in the Dallas-Fort Worth area may notice a white helicopter hovering over pipelines, oil and gas production facilities, and other industrial facilities.

The whirly-birds are part of a study being conducted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Each aircraft is equipped with a specialized infrared camera called the HAWK that can image volatile organic compound emissions invisible to the eye.

VOCs are a class of compounds that include common things like gasoline and other solvents as well as industrial chemicals such as styrene and toluene. VOCs combine with nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight and light winds to form ground-level ozone.

This project is a follow up to similar efforts TCEQ conducted in the Texas Gulf Coast area. Researchers are trying to identify VOC sources that may potentially be unreported or under-reported.

TCEQ says the purpose of identifying the emission is to improve the region’s air quality by advancing the science of ozone formation and VOC sources, thus leading to improved air quality planning efforts.

In addition, the helicopter crew is also supposed to record the location of gas field and pipeline compressor engines to support area inventory development.

The HAWK infrared camera images VOCs such as gasoline vapors, styrene or propane as a dark cloud. When the camera detects VOCs, equipment on the helicopter will note the time and location and other information about the emission source. The helicopter may hover or circle a particular location for an extended period of time to gather images and data on emission sources. The helicopter(s) being used for this project are white with gray markings or white with blue markings.

Helicopter flights will be conducted over pipelines, oil and gas production areas, and industrial areas in the following counties: Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant, Wise and Hood. The helicopter flights will conclude no later than Aug. 31, 2007.

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