Using carbon-14 and carbon-13 measurements for source attribution of atmospheric methane in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region Journal Article uri icon



  • Abstract. The rapidly expanding and energy intensive production from the Canadian oil sands, one of the largest oil reserves globally, accounts for almost 12 % of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions according to inventories. Developing approaches for evaluating reported methane (CH4) emission is crucial for developing effective mitigation policies, but only one study has characterized CH4 sources in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR). We tested the use of 14C and 13C carbon isotope measurements in ambient CH4 from the AOSR to estimate source contributions from key regional CH4 sources: (1) tailings ponds, (2) surface mines and processing facilities, and (3) wetlands. The isotopic signatures of ambient CH4 indicate that the CH4 enrichments measured at the site were mainly influenced by fossil CH4 emissions from surface mining and processing facilities (53 ± 18 %), followed by fossil CH4 emissions from tailings ponds (36 ± 18 %), and to a lesser extent by modern CH4 emissions from wetlands (10 < 1 %). Our results confirm the importance of tailings ponds in regional CH4 emissions and show that this method can successfully separate wetland CH4 emissions. In the future, the isotopic characterization of CH4 sources, and measurements from different seasons and wind directions are needed to provide a better source attribution in the AOSR.;

publication date

  • August 9, 2021

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • November 8, 2021 8:26 AM

Full Author List

  • Gonzalez Moguel R; Vogel F; Ars S; Schaefer H; Turnbull J; Douglas P

author count

  • 6

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