Tracking petroleum refinery emission events using lanthanum and lanthanides as elemental markers for PM2.5

Pranav Kulkarni, Shankararaman Chellam, Matthew P. Fraser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Fine particulate matter levels at four air sampling stations in the Houston, TX area are apportioned to quantify the impact of emissions from a local refinery during a reported emission event. Through quantification of lanthanum and lanthanides using a recently developed analytical technique, the impacts of emissions from fluidized-bed catalytic cracking (FCC) units are quantitatively tracked across the Houston region. The results show a significant (33-106-fold) increase in contributions of FCC emissions to PM2.5 compared with background levels associated with routine operation. This impact from industrial emissions to ambient air quality occurs simultaneously with a larger, regional haze episode that lead to elevated PM2.5 concentrations throughout the entire region. By focusing on detailed chemical analysis of unique maker metals (lanthanum and lanthanides), the impact of emissions from the FCC unit was tracked from the local refinery that reported the emission event to a site approximately 50 km downwind, illustrating the strength of the analytical method to isolate an important source during a regional haze episode not related to the emission event. While this source apportionment technique could separate contributions from FCC emissions, improved time-resolved sampling is proposed to more precisely quantify the impacts of transient emission events on ambient PM2.5.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6748-6754
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Tracking petroleum refinery emission events using lanthanum and lanthanides as elemental markers for PM2.5'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this