Evaluation of emission control strategies to reduce ozone pollution in the Paso del Norte region using a photochemical air quality modeling system

Victor Hugo Valenzuela, University of Texas at El Paso


Air pollution emissions control strategies to reduce ozone precursor pollutants are analyzed by applying a photochemical modeling system. Simulations of air quality conditions during an ozone episode which occurred in June, 2006 are undertaken by increasing or reducing area source emissions in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Two air pollutants are primary drivers in the formation of tropospheric ozone. Oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) undergo multiple chemical reactions under favorable meteorological conditions to form ozone, which is a secondary pollutant that irritates respiratory systems in sensitive individuals especially the elderly and young children. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to limit ambient air pollutants such as ozone by establishing an 8-hour average concentration of 0.075 ppm as the threshold at which a violation of the standard occurs. Ozone forms primarily due reactions in the troposphere of NOx and VOC emissions generated primarily by anthropogenic sources in urban regions. Data from emissions inventories indicate area sources account for ∼15 of NOx and ∼45% of regional VOC emissions. Area sources include gasoline stations, automotive paint bodyshops and nonroad mobile sources. Multiplicity of air pollution emissions sources provides an opportunity to investigate and potentially implement air quality improvement strategies to reduce emissions which contribute to elevated ozone concentrations. A baseline modeling scenario was established using the CAMx photochemical air quality model from which a series of sensitivity analyses for evaluating air quality control strategies were conducted. Modifications to area source emissions were made by varying NOx and / or VOC emissions in the areas of particular interest. Model performance was assessed for each sensitivity analysis. Normalized bias (NB) and normalized error (NE) were used to identify variability of the PREDICTED to OBSERVED ozone concentrations of both BASELINE model and simulations with modified emissions assessed by the sensitivity analysis. All simulations were found to vary within acceptable ranges of these two criteria variables. Simulation results indicate ozone formation in the PdN region is VOC-limited. Under VOC-limited conditions, modifications to NOx emissions do not produce a marked increase or decrease in ozone concentrations. Modifications to VOC emissions generated the highest variability in ozone concentrations. Increasing VOC emissions by 75% produced results which minimized model bias and error when comparing PREDICTED and OBSERVED ozone concentrations. Increasing VOC emissions by 75% either alone or in combination with a 75% increase in NOx emissions generated PREDICTED ozone concentrations very near to OBSERVED ozone. By evaluating the changes in ambient ozone concentrations through photochemical modeling, air quality planners may identify the most efficient or effective VOC emissions control strategies for area sources. Among the strategies to achieve emissions reductions are installation of gasoline vapor recovery systems, replacing high-pressure low-volume surface coating paint spray guns with high-volume low-pressure spray paint guns, requiring emissions control booths for surface coating operations as well as undertaking solvent management practices, requiring the sale of low VOC paint solvents in the surface-coating industry, and requiring low-VOC solvents in the dry cleaning industry. Other strategies to reduce VOC emissions include initiating Eco-Driving strategies to reduce fuel consumption from mobile sources and minimize vehicle idling at the international ports of entry by reducing bridge wait times. This dissertation depicts a tool for evaluating impacts of emissions on regional air quality by addressing the highly unresolved fugitive emissions in the Paso del Norte region. It provides a protocol for decision makers to assess the effects of various emission control strategies in the region. Impacts of specific source categories such as the international ports of entry, gasoline stations, paint body shops, truck stops, and military installations on the regional air quality can be easily and systematically addressed in a timely manner in the future.

Subject Area

Atmospheric sciences

Recommended Citation

Valenzuela, Victor Hugo, "Evaluation of emission control strategies to reduce ozone pollution in the Paso del Norte region using a photochemical air quality modeling system" (2013). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3587182.