Volume 226, 2021

Sources of non-methane hydrocarbons in surface air in Delhi, India


Rapid economic growth and development have exacerbated air quality problems across India, driven by many poorly understood pollution sources and understanding their relative importance remains critical to characterising the key drivers of air pollution. A comprehensive suite of measurements of 90 non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) (C2–C14), including 12 speciated monoterpenes and higher molecular weight monoaromatics, were made at an urban site in Old Delhi during the pre-monsoon (28-May to 05-Jun 2018) and post-monsoon (11 to 27-Oct 2018) seasons using dual-channel gas chromatography (DC-GC-FID) and two-dimensional gas chromatography (GC×GC-FID). Significantly higher mixing ratios of NMHCs were measured during the post-monsoon campaign, with a mean night-time enhancement of around 6. Like with NOx and CO, strong diurnal profiles were observed for all NMHCs, except isoprene, with very high NMHC mixing ratios between 35–1485 ppbv. The sum of mixing ratios of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes (BTEX) routinely exceeded 100 ppbv at night during the post-monsoon period, with a maximum measured mixing ratio of monoaromatic species of 370 ppbv. The mixing ratio of highly reactive monoterpenes peaked at around 6 ppbv in the post-monsoon campaign and correlated strongly with anthropogenic NMHCs, suggesting a strong non-biogenic source in Delhi. A detailed source apportionment study was conducted which included regression analysis to CO, acetylene and other NMHCs, hierarchical cluster analysis, EPA UNMIX 6.0, principal component analysis/absolute principal component scores (PCA/APCS) and comparison with NMHC ratios (benzene/toluene and i-/n-pentane) in ambient samples to liquid and solid fuels. These analyses suggested the primary source of anthropogenic NMHCs in Delhi was from traffic emissions (petrol and diesel), with average mixing ratio contributions from Unmix and PCA/APCS models of 38% from petrol, 14% from diesel and 32% from liquified petroleum gas (LPG) with a smaller contribution (16%) from solid fuel combustion. Detailed consideration of the underlying meteorology during the campaigns showed that the extreme night-time mixing ratios of NMHCs during the post-monsoon campaign were the result of emissions into a very shallow and stagnant boundary layer. The results of this study suggest that despite widespread open burning in India, traffic-related petrol and diesel emissions remain the key drivers of gas-phase urban air pollution in Delhi.

Graphical abstract: Sources of non-methane hydrocarbons in surface air in Delhi, India

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Article type
30 Jun 2020
13 Aug 2020
First published
13 Aug 2020
This article is Open Access
Creative Commons BY license

Faraday Discuss., 2021,226, 409-431

Sources of non-methane hydrocarbons in surface air in Delhi, India

G. J. Stewart, B. S. Nelson, W. S. Drysdale, W. J. F. Acton, A. R. Vaughan, J. R. Hopkins, R. E. Dunmore, C. N. Hewitt, E. Nemitz, N. Mullinger, B. Langford, Shivani, E. Reyes-Villegas, R. Gadi, A. R. Rickard, J. D. Lee and J. F. Hamilton, Faraday Discuss., 2021, 226, 409 DOI: 10.1039/D0FD00087F

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