Heathrow Airport hires Ricardo to monitor black carbon

25 November 2015 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read

Heathrow Airport has selected Ricardo Energy & Environment to support the monitoring of black carbon levels within the vicinity of the airport. The information will be used to develop environmental policies related to the level of emissions.

Black carbon is a fine (PM ≤ 2.5 µm in aerodynamic diameter) by product of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass, and consists of pure carbon in several linked forms. It is described by scientists as a climate forcing agent, implying that it warms the Earth’s surface through absorbing sunlight and reducing the albedo effect when it is deposited on snow and ice. As it stands, there are no European or UK mandated limits or recommended targets that regulate concentrations of black carbon – with the levels of the fine particles thus far only detected and monitored on the 13 monitoring stations operated by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

In an effort to boost air quality policy in the region, Heathrow Airport – Europe’s busiest airport by passenger traffic (and 5th busiest in the world) – recently decided it will install a new black carbon detection system. The system will allow for real-time measurements of the proportion of black carbon produced by combustion and help the airport gain insight in the atmospheric dynamics of the fine particles. To support the implementation phase, Heathrow Airport has brought the expertise of Ricardo Energy & Environment (formerly Ricardo-AEA) on board. Ricardo Energy & Environment was also recently contracted by the UK Government for a period of three years to screen the AURN air quality monitoring network*.

Heathrow Airport hires Ricardo

The monitoring itself will be undertaken through Heathrow Airport’s new monitoring system, with two new locations set to detect black carbon within the airport’s wider network. The new detectors are modified versions of those employed by Defra, and provide enhanced analytical capacity for near instantaneous particle characterisation. The deal, which will also help the region establish an air quality policy, is according to the partners the first of its kind in outside the UK Government network. 

Paul Willis, Ricardo Energy & Environment project manager, says: “Heathrow Airport 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.”

In August this year Ricardo Energy & Environment added four professionals to its Air Quality team, in a move to meet growing demand for its services.

* The AURN is the UK's largest automatic monitoring network and is the main network used for compliance reporting against the Ambient Air Quality Directives. It includes automatic air quality monitoring stations measuring oxides of nitrogen (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO) and particles (PM10, PM2.5).