Methane (CH4) sources in Krakow, Poland: insights from isotope analysis

Malika Menoud, Carina van der Veen, Jaroslaw Necki, Jakub Bartyzel, Barbara Szénási, Mila Stanisavljević, Isabelle Pison, Philippe Bousquet, Thomas Röckmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Methane (CH4) emissions from human activities are a threat to the resilience of our current climate system. The stable isotopic composition of methane (I13C and I2H) allows us to distinguish between the different CH4 origins. A significant part of the European CH4 emissions, 3.6ĝ€¯% in 2018, comes from coal extraction in Poland, the Upper Silesian Coal Basin (USCB) being the main hotspot. Measurements of CH4 mole fraction (χ(CH4)), I13C, and I2H in CH4 in ambient air were performed continuously during 6 months in 2018 and 2019 at Krakow, Poland, in the east of the USCB. In addition, air samples were collected during parallel mobile campaigns, from multiple CH4 sources in the footprint area of the continuous measurements. The resulting isotopic signatures from sampled plumes allowed us to distinguish between natural gas leaks, coal mine fugitive emissions, landfill and sewage, and ruminants. The use of I2H in CH4 is crucial to distinguish the fossil fuel emissions in the case of Krakow because their relatively depleted I13C values overlap with the ones of microbial sources. The observed χ(CH4) time series showed regular daily night-Time accumulations, sometimes combined with irregular pollution events during the day. The isotopic signatures of each peak were obtained using the Keeling plot method and generally fall in the range of thermogenic CH4 formation-with I13C between-59.3g and-37.4g Vienna Pee Dee Belemnite (V-PDB) and I2H between-291g and-137g Vienna Standard Mean Ocean Water (V-SMOW). They compare well with the signatures measured for gas leaks in Krakow and USCB mines. The CHIMERE transport model was used to compute the CH4 and isotopic composition time series in Krakow, based on two emission inventories. The magnitude of the pollution events is generally underestimated in the model, which suggests that emission rates in the inventories are too low. The simulated isotopic source signatures, obtained with Keeling plots on each simulated peak, indicate that a higher contribution from fuel combustion sources in the EDGAR v5.0 inventory would lead to a better agreement than when using CAMS-REG-GHG v4.2 (Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service REGional inventory for Air Pollutants and GreenHouse Gases). The isotopic mismatches between model and observations are mainly caused by uncertainties in the assigned isotopic signatures for each source category and the way they are classified in the inventory. These uncertainties are larger for emissions close to the study site, which are more heterogenous than the ones advected from the USCB coal mines. Our isotope approach proves to be very sensitive in this region, thus helping to evaluate emission estimates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13167–13185
Number of pages19
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2021


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