Heathrow Airport installs black carbon monitoring system

Ricardo Energy & Environment air quality specialists helping install new system which it is hoped will guide policy in the region

Airborne black carbon is being monitored at Heathrow Airport in an effort to enhance understanding of atmospheric particulate matter and to help guide air quality policy in the region.

The Davies Commission has recommended see an expansion of Heathrow Airport to three runways

The Davies Commission has recommended see an expansion of Heathrow Airport to three runways

Ricardo Energy & Environment revealed this week (October 27) that its air quality specialists are supporting the airport with the implementation of its new detection system, which provides real-time measurements of the proportion of black carbon produced by combustion.

The project has been described as the ‘first of its kind’ outside the UK government’s monitoring networks, it is hoped that it will provide a “greater depth of understanding for researchers and policy makers to develop the best informed policies for air quality control across London and the wider area.”

According to Ricardo, black carbon contributes to atmospheric warming by reducing albedo — the ability of the earth to reflect sunlight — when it deposits on snow and ice.

However, there are currently no UK or European legal limits or recommended targets to regulate concentrations of black carbon and only 13 air quality monitoring stations in the UK government’s network measure the pollutant.

But, the new monitoring system at Heathrow means that the airport now undertakes measurements of the pollutant at two additional locations — Oak’s Road and Heathrow LHR2 — within its own monitoring network, with pollution measurements available to view on the Heathrow Airwatch website.

The newly installed analyzers are modified versions of those employed by Defra, with “enhanced analytical capacity for near instantaneous particle characterization”, according to Ricardo, which delivers quality assurance and quality control services to the UK’s Automatic Urban and Rural Network (AURN) on behalf of the Department.

Paul Willis, Ricardo Energy & Environment project manager, commented: “Heathrow Airport Ltd has a strong history of pro-active air quality monitoring and we are proud that our specialist team could help to expand this even further. Near real-time monitoring of black carbon goes above and beyond what is required of the airport and will provide invaluable data to guide air quality policy in the UK and across the world.”

Heathrow Airport is currently awaiting the government’s decision on increasing UK airport capacity following the Davies’ Commission recommendation that a third runway is built at Heathrow. The Prime Minister has said a decision will be made before the end of 2015.


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