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In the dead of night: Like ghost hunters, CSU researchers work to collect air samples in the dark

Study on gas levels near oil and gas sites
Posted: 5:12 PM, Aug 15, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-15 20:55:59-04
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FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Arsineh Hecobian’s Chevy Tahoe is a gas guzzler, but not in the traditional sense.

“This is our mobile plume tracker,” said Hecobian, a research scientist at Colorado State University. “We use these six-liter canisters to collect air.”

Hecobian is leading the charge on a new air quality study in Broomfield. She and her team collect gasses and airborne toxins and then test them in a lab in Fort Collins.

Her work is better when it’s conducted in the dead of night.

"Tonight, the plan is to go to the two active pads in Broomfield where oil and gas activity is taking place," she said. "Mostly, we want to be there when concentrations are the highest. So, at night when you have a shallow boundary layer where it's cooler air trapped."

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The vehicle CSU researchers use to collect air samples.

The four-year study of oil and gas emissions on Broomfield's air quality is in its early stages, but so far, the news is good. No dangerous levels of benzene or other carcinogens.

"We haven't seen any concentration values that have been higher than EPA guidelines for chronic or acute exposure,” Hecobian said.

They'll also study the impact on ozone.

"As a whole, these compounds and emissions can affect the ozone levels," she said. "So, it's also informing future activities."

Colorado State University is working with Ajax Analytics on the project.