Picarro, Inc., the world’s leading provider of instruments for carbon and water cycle measurements, announced the release of a new methane isotope analyzer that delivers a level of performance that has, until now, been unavailable in a field deployable instrument. The new analyzer, model G2132-i,frees researchers from the limitations of laboratory-bound instrumentation when studying the natural and anthropogenic mechanisms that produce and consume methane.
The study of isotope ratios gives scientists an indication of how the methane was produced. G2132-i measures the ratio of the carbon-13 (13C) to carbon-12 (12C) isotopes more precisely than 0.8 per mil at normal ambient methane concentration of 1.8ppm. Each source of methane has a characteristic ratio of 13C/12C. Knowing this ratio helps researchers link methane to a particular local source, such as a wetland, landfill, or shale gas production well.
While different isotopes of carbon have the same chemical characteristics, 13C is heavier than 12C because it has an additional neutron in its atomic nucleus. Whereas 12C and 13C follow identical reaction pathways, they proceed at different rates in nature, with heavier 13C often reacting more slowly than 12C. As a result, precisely measuring this ratio enables researchers to understand how methane is being created and consumed in the environment.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of developing isotopic analyzers, like the G2132-i, is providing fellow scientists with cutting edge tools to better understand our world,” said Dr. Eric Crosson, Picarro’s chief technology officer. “Scientists are dedicating considerable research to natural gas methane sources now that hydraulic fracturing has led to massive expansion in the production of natural gas in the U.S. Methane that escapes into the atmosphere produces 25-times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, so it’s critical that scientists better understand regional and continental scale methane budgets. With this instrument scientists will be better equipped to answer those questions.”
Until now, the common way to make methane isotope measurements was for researchers to collect gas samples in the field using flasks, and then return to a lab to analyze the samples using large, delicate instrumentation requiring tedious sample preparation. Weeks later, the researcher might discover they had missed critical samples, requiring them to return to the field before proceeding with their research. Picarro’s G2132-i enables researchers to take precise, immediate measurements in the field and not miss any critical data in their first attempt.