Specialized Odour Analyzers
HEMP is currently employing specialized odour analyzers at two locations in the RMWB - Mildred Lake and Fort McKay First Nation. HEMP’s Portable Monitoring Station will besituated at Mildred Lake, next to WBEA’s fixed Air MonitoringStation (AMS). This is an industrial location, north-west ofFort McMurray, on the Syncrude Canada Ltd. lease. The purpose of this deployment is to compare data at the Mildred Lake location with data from identical instruments operating at WBEA’s Bertha Ganter-Fort McKay AMS, twenty-nine km. to the north.
Analyzers in the HEMP Portable Station continuously monitor total reduced sulphurs (TRS), total hydrocarbons (THC), methane / non-methane hydrocarbons, wind speed, wind direction, temperature and relative humidity. A Pneumatically Focusing Gas Chromatograph(PFGC), also installed in the HEMP Portable, chemically characterizes odour-related compounds in the air. Click to view Continuous monitoring data from the Odour Monitoring Program Portable AMS.
The community of Fort McKay, some sixty km. north of Fort McMurray, has been a focal point for HEMP odour monitoring since 2009. At WBEA’s Bertha Ganter-Fort McKay AMS, three specialized odour detection, evaluation and quantification instruments operate alongside other WBEA air analyzers. WBEA’s odour monitoring has shown that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and reduced sulphur compounds (RSCs) cause odours, either singly or in combination, in the Wood Buffalo Region.
The standard operating protocol used by Environment Canada (EC) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to identify and measure VOCs and RSCs in ambient air is to employ a specially prepared, evacuated 6-liter stainless steel canister. A new canister is opened once every six days and ambient air is collected over a 24-hour period. The canister is then shipped to a laboratory where the air sample is analyzed using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry techniques. One drawback to this approach is that air samples are often collected at times when odour episodes are not occurring. The community of Fort McKay has addressed this issue, independently, by operating anepisode-based canister sampling program, with canisters opened specifically during odour episodes.
WBEA operates a trio of instruments, alongside a total reduced sulphur (TRS) analyzer, at Bertha Ganter-Fort McKay AMS, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the incidence and concentrations of VOCs and RSCs in ambient air on a 24-hour per day basis. TRS analyzers are also operational at seven other WBEA Air Monitoring Stations for continuous measurement of reduced sulphurs.
- The first of these specialized odour compound analyzers is the dual detector PFGC. In addition to hourly, semi-continuous monitoring for a suite of VOCs, the PFGC also provides information on a wide range of inorganic and organic sulphur compounds, including RSCs. An advantage of the PFGC is that it provides hourly measurements of VOCs and RSCs. Currently, the PFGC is achieving lower detection limits for VOCs than can be achieved using standard canister methods. An integrated PFGC canister (multi-adsorbent cartridge system) can be triggered automatically when sulphur analyzers at AMS indicate RSC concentrations in the ambient air are approaching a set threshold.
- A methane/non-methane hydrocarbon analyzer at Bertha Ganter-Fort McKay AMSallows continuous measurement of hydrocarbons associated with industrial and transportation emission sources.
- The third analyzer, an Electronic Nose (Enose), is used in other jurisdictions to calculate and report odour units, a numeric indicator of odour strength. The intention of deploying the E-nose is to communicate the occurrence and severity of odour episodes to Fort McKay residents, thereby providing additional context to WBEA’s continuous air quality data.