Stable isotopic signatures of methane from waste sources through atmospheric measurements

Semra Bakkaloglu*, Dave Lowry, Rebecca E. Fisher, Malika Menoud, Mathias Lanoisellé, Huilin Chen, Thomas Röckmann, Euan G. Nisbet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study aimed to characterize the carbon isotopic signatures (δ13C-CH4) of several methane waste sources, predominantly in the UK, and during field campaigns in the Netherlands and Turkey. CH4 plumes emitted from waste sources were detected during mobile surveys using a cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) analyser. Air samples were collected in the plumes for subsequent isotope analysis by gas chromatography isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC-IRMS) to characterize δ13C-CH4. The isotopic signatures were determined through a Keeling plot approach and the bivariate correlated errors and intrinsic scatter (BCES) fitting method. The δ13C-CH4 and δ2H-CH4 signatures were identified from biogas plants (−54.6 ± 5.6‰, n = 34; −314.4 ± 23‰ n = 3), landfills (−56.8 ± 2.3‰, n = 43; −268.2 ± 2.1‰, n = 2), sewage treatment plants (−51.6 ± 2.2‰, n = 15; −303.9 ± 22‰, n = 6), composting facilities (−54.7 ± 3.9‰, n = 6), a landfill leachate treatment plant (−57.1 ± 1.8‰, n = 2), one water treatment plant (−53.7 ± 0.1‰) and a waste recycling facility (−53.2 ± 0.2‰). The overall signature of 71 waste sources ranged from −64.4 to −44.3‰, with an average of −55.1 ± 4.1‰ (n = 102) for δ13C, −341 to −267‰, with an average of −300.3 ± 25‰ (n = 11) for δ2H, which can be distinguished from other source types in the UK such as gas leaks and ruminants. The study also demonstrates that δ2H-CH4 signatures, in addition to δ13C-CH4, can aid in better waste source apportionment and increase the granularity of isotope data required to improve regional modelling.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119021
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


  • Carbon isotopes
  • Deuterium
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Methane emissions
  • Waste isotopic signature


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