Isotope metrology to enable climate action and regulation

Smoking chimneys
Smoking chimneys

New reference materials to help fingerprint the source of greenhouse gas emissions

EMPIR project Stable isotope metrology to enable climate action and regulation (19ENV05, STELLAR) will fill the traceability gap in the measurement of the isotopic composition of carbon dioxide and methane by providing an infrastructure for delivering gaseous reference materials and methods. This work is essential to provide governments with the data required to support inventory verification targets and enable pledges of emissions reductions to be achieved.

Recent achievements of the project include:

  • Methane from a biogenic origin was recently supplied by Nordsol from a newly constructed bio-LNG installation in partnership with Shell and Renewi. This bio-LNG installation is located in Amsterdam and was officially put into service by the Dutch king Willem-Alexander. In this installation, biogas is made from organic waste such as out-of-date peanut butter, then purified to obtain biomethane and finally cooled down to obtain bio-LNG. Samples for VSL were taken after purification but before the cooling step.
  • A combustion system to convert methane (CH4) to carbon dioxide (CO2) at 400 parts per million, the amount fraction which CO2 occurs in the atmosphere, has been tested. This forms part of an activity where a facility to convert the methane reference materials to carbon dioxide at a range of amount fractions from ambient to pure will be developed. The d 13C-CO2 (ratio of stable isotopes 13C:12C in the carbon dioxide gas) can then be linked to existing CO2 isotope scales. 

Project contact Ruth Pearce from NPL, UK’s NMI said

‘Methane reference materials which are traceable to the SI and to existing isotope scales at a range of isotope ratios and amount fractions with low uncertainty on both the isotope ratio and the amount fraction is essential for calibrating instruments measuring methane isotopes in the field. The recent achievements towards creating an infrastructure to make these reference materials and to put them on existing isotope scales are vital steps for upscaling the production of these reference materials.’

This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

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