Greenhouse gas emission quantification from wastewater treatment plants, using a tracer gas dispersion method

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Plant-integrated methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emission quantifications were performed at five Scandinavian wastewater treatment plants, using a ground-based remote sensing approach that combines a controlled release of tracer gas from the plant with downwind concentration measurements. CH4 emission factors were between 1 and 21% of CH4 production, and between 0.2 and 3.2% of COD influent. The main CH4 emitting sources at the five plants were sludge treatment and energy production units. The lowest CH4 emission factors were obtained at plants with enclosed sludge treatment and storage units. N2O emission factors ranged from < 0.1 to 5.2% of TN influent, and from < 0.1 to 5.9% of TN removed. In general, measurement-based, site-specific CH4 and N2O emission factors for the five studied plants were in the upper range of the literature values and default emission factors applied in international guidelines. This study showed that measured CH4 and N2O emission rates from wastewater treatment plants were plant-specific and that emission rates estimated using models in current guidelines, mainly meant for reporting emissions on the country scale, were unsuitable for Scandinavian plant-specific emission reporting.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Pages (from-to)258-268
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Methane
  • Nitrous oxides
  • Emission factor
  • Ground-based remote sensing
  • IPCC guideline
  • Anaerobic digestion

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