Emission and fate assessment of methyl tertiary butyl ether in the Boston area airshed using a simple multimedia box model : Comparison with urban air measurements

Expected urban air concentrations of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) were calculated using volatile emissions estimates and screening transport models, and these predictions were compared with Boston, MA, area urban air measurements. The total volatile flux of MTBE into the Boston primary metropolitan statistical area (PMSA) airshed was calculated based on estimated automobile nontailpipe emissions and the Universal Quasi-Chemical Functional-Group Activity Coefficient computed abundance of MTBE in gasoline vapor. The fate of MTBE in the Boston PMSA was assessed using both the European Union System for the Evaluation of Substances, which is a steady-state multimedia box model, and a simple airshed box model. Both models were parameterized based on the meteorological conditions observed during air sampling in the Boston area. Measured average urban air concentrations of 0.1 and 1 ug/m3 MTBE during February and September of 2000, respectively, were comparable to corresponding model predictions of 0.3 and 1 ug/m3 and could be essentially explained from estimated temperature-dependent volatile emissions rates, observed average wind speed (the airshed flushing rate), and reaction with ambient tropospheric hydroxyl radical (OH), within model uncertainty. These findings support the proposition that one can estimate gasoline component source fluxes and use simple multimedia models to screen the potential impact of future proposed gasoline additives on urban airsheds.

Published in:
Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, 53, 12, 1426-1435

 Record created 2010-01-08, last modified 2018-03-17

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