Performance of commercial nonmethane hydrocarbon analyzers in monitoring oxygenated volatile organic compounds emitted from animal feeding operations

Steven Trabue, Kenwood Scoggin, Laura L. McConnell, Hong Li, Andrew Turner, Robert Burns, Hongwei Xin, Richard S. Gates, Alam Hasson, Segun Ogunjemiyo, Ronaldo Maghirang, Jerry Hatfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Quantifying non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC) from animal feeding operations (AFOs) is challenging due to the broad spectrum of compounds and the polar nature of the most abundant compounds. The purpose of this study was to determine the performance of commercial NMHC analyzers for measuring volatile organic compounds (VOCs) commonly emitted from AFOs. Three different NMHC analyzers were tested for response to laboratory generated VOCs, and two were tested in the field at a commercial poultry facility. The NMHC analyzers tested included gas chromatography/flame ionization detector (GC/FID), photoacoustic infrared (PA-IR) and photoionization detector (PID). The GC/FID NHHC analyzer was linear in response to non-polar compounds, but detector response to polar oxygenated compounds were lower than expected due to poor peak shape on the column. The PA-IR NMHC instrument responded well to the calibration standard (propane), methanol, and acetone, but it performed poorly with larger alcohols and ketones and acetonitrile. The PA-IR response varied between compounds in similar compound classes. The PID responded poorly to many of the most abundant VOCs at AFOs, and it underreported alcohols by>70%. In the field monitoring study, total NMHC concentrations were calculated from sum total of VOC determined using EPA Methods TO-15 and TO-17 with GC-MS compared to results from NMHC analyzers. NMHC GC/FID values were greater than the values calculated from the individual compound measurements. This indicated the presence of small hydrocarbons not measured with TO-15 or TO-17 such as propane. The PA-IR response was variable, but it was always lower than the GC/FID response. Results suggest that improved approaches are needed to accurately determine the VOC profile and NMHC emission rates from AFOs. Commercial nonmethane hydrocarbons (NMHC) analyzers that monitor volatile organic compounds (VOCs) will underreport true concentrations of VOCs if the compound profiles have significant levels of polar compounds. Laboratory experiments showed that the commercial instruments accurately measured nonpolar compounds, but polar compounds were being underreported by NMHC analyzers with known standards. Field experiments showed that laboratory instruments underreported true concentration in the field due to the fact that the most abundant NMHC associated with animal feeding operations were polar VOCs. This report recommends not using NMHC analyzers for quantifying VOCs at animal feeding operations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1163-1172
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Air and Waste Management Association
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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