The USU Bingham Research Center
Working to Understand and Improve Uintah Basin Air Quality
The Uintah Basin of eastern Utah generally has good air quality, but many winters bring strong thermal inversions to the region that trap pollutants near the ground and encourage the formation of high ozone concentrations. The Basin, as with many high-altitude regions of the West, also experiences the occasional high ozone episode during summer. Our team of scientists at the Bingham Research Center is working to provide solutions that will reduce ozone pollution in the Basin. For more information about specific projects, click on Projects on the left menu.
We deploy an array of high-precision equipment (from portable solar-powered monitors to fully-instrumented mobile laboratories) to measure ozone, reactive nitrogen compounds, speciated volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and other air quality and meteorological parameters. These data have contributed to numerous local, national, and international studies and reports, presentations, and papers, many of which are available on our Papers and Reports page.
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Meteorological and chemical models that researchers and regulators use to simulate air quality were designed for summertime urban conditions and can have difficulty accurately simulating the meteorological and chemical characteristics of winter ozone episodes. In partnership with federal and state agencies and other academic institutions we are working to develop a modeling framework that is specific to the wintertime inversion episodes in northeastern Utah. This framework utilizes the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, the Sparse Matrix Operator Kernel Emissions (SMOKE) model, the Comprehensive Air Quality Model with Extensions (CAMx), and the Community Multiscale Air Quality Model (CMAQ).
We are engaged in several projects to measure emissions of organic compounds from oil and gas sources, with an eye towards filling gaps in current understanding. We also work to incorporate existing emissions inventories in air quality models to determine theimpact of changes to emissions on simulated air quality. You can find out about our extensive work to characterize emissions of organics from produced water ponds here, and publications relating to additional studies are available on our Papers and Reports page.
Mercury in aquatic ecosystems is able to bioaccumulate and biomagnify in the food chain, and is a health risk for those who consume high-trophic level fish. Most mercury pollution, however, is emitted to the atmosphere. Unfortunately, shortcomings with current atmospheric mercury instrumentation are limiting our ability to understand how mercury is transported and transformed in the atmosphere. Scientists at the Bingham Research Center are developing improved instrumentation that will allow us to more accurately detect atmospheric mercury compounds.
Uintah Basin Ecology
Our team is expert in the ecology of the Uintah Basin. We perform research on soil reclamation, selenium in the ecosystem, and threatened and endangered species.
Energy Policy Studies Initiative
Fossil fuel extraction underpins the economy of the Uintah Basin and the State of Utah, and is an important component of national energy independence. USU has instituted the Energy Policy Studies Initiative to study the impact of policy on the energy industry. Our recent publication, The Regulatory Road Map for Oil and Gas Exploration, Development, and Production in Utah, informs stakeholders who develop the state's vast energy resources.
Our team is expert in air, water, and soil quality. We measure, monitor, and model, and our work not only appears in scientific journals but also provides information vital to local, state, and national policy. We are affiliated with USU's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Department of Plants, Soils and Climate.
We are located at Utah State University's Bingham building in Vernal, the heart of Utah's oil and gas industry. Use the map below to find us.