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University of Southampton: Quantifying Anthropogenic Methane Emission Sources 

Researchers at the University of Southampton are using a state-of-the-art technique to measure the release of landfill gas into the atmosphere. Their work supports a national effort to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In collaboration with the United Kingdom’s (UK's) Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency, the university’s Waste Management Research Group is investigating variations in methane emissions across three UK landfill sites using the Tracer Gas Dispersion Method (TDM).

How TDM Works

The TDM technique involves releasing a tracer gas from the surface of the landfill and measuring its dispersal and integration with methane downwind. Researchers take measurements using mobile high-resolution analytical equipment. By releasing the tracer gas at a constant rate and with good mixing between the tracer and landfill gas, the methane emission rate can be calculated by analyzing the cross-plume concentration.

This technique can also be applied to other localized methane emission sources, such as wastewater treatment plants and composting facilities.

How TDM Fits into the Big Picture

The 2008 Climate Change Act committed the UK to reducing its GHG emissions by 80 percent (%) over the coming decades, which required a renewed evaluation of emission sources such as landfill sites. In June 2019, Order 2019 (termed ‘Net Zero’) came into force revising this target to a minimum 100% reduction. This research supports gas reduction by helping to produce realistic annual emission rates for such sites and provide quantitative metrics to inform UK’s response to climate change.

Learn more about Southampton’s Waste Management Research Group and their efforts.

Measured downwind methane emissions via Google Earth.