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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Atmospheric Pollutants and Trace Gases

An Approach for Measuring Methane Emissions from Whole Farms


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 35 No. 1, p. 14-20

    * Corresponding author(s): mcginn@agr.gc.ca
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  1. S. M. McGinn *a,
  2. T. K. Fleschb,
  3. L. A. Harperc and
  4. K. A. Beauchemina
  1. a Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, P.O. Box 3000, Lethbridge, AB, Canada T1J 4B1
    b Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2E3
    c Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Watkinsville, GA 30677


Estimates of enteric methane (CH4) emissions from ruminants are typically measured by confining animals in large chambers, using head hoods or masks, or by a ratiometric technique involving sampling respired air of the animal. These techniques are not appropriate to evaluate large-scale farm emissions and the variability between farms that may be partly attributed to different farm management. This study describes the application of an inverse-dispersion technique to calculate farm emissions in a controlled tracer-release experiment. Our study was conducted at a commercial dairy farm in southern Alberta, Canada (total of 321 cattle, including 152 lactating dairy cows). Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) and CH4 were released from 10 outlet locations (barn and open pens) using mass-flow controllers. A Lagrangian stochastic (LS) dispersion model was then used to infer farm emissions from downwind gas concentrations. Concentrations of SF6 and CH4 were measured by gas chromatography analysis and open path lasers, respectively. Wind statistics were measured with a three-dimensional sonic anemometer. Comparing the inferred emissions with the known release rate showed we recovered 86% of the released CH4 and 100% of the released SF6 The location of the concentration observations downwind of the farm was critically important to the success of this technique.

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