Physical and chemical characterization of residential oil boiler emissions

Michael D. Hays, Lee Beck, Pamela Barfield, Richard J. Lavrich, Yuanji Dong, Randy L. Vander Wal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The toxicity of emissions from the combustion of home heating oil coupled with the regional proximity and seasonal use of residential oil boilers (ROB) is an important public health concern. Yet scant physical and chemical information about the emissions from this source is available for climate and air quality modeling and for improving our understanding of aerosol-related human health effects. The gas- and particle-phase emissions from an active ROB firing distillate fuel oil (commonly known as diesel fuel) were evaluated to address this deficiency. Ion chromatography of impactor samples showed that the ultrafine ROB aerosol emissions were ∼45% (w/w) sulfate. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry detected various n-alkanes at trace levels, sometimes in accumulation mode particles, and out of phase with the size distributions of aerosol mass and sulfate. The carbonaceous matter in the ROB aerosol was primarily light-adsorbing elemental carbon. Gas chromatography- atomic emission spectroscopy measured a previously unrecognized organosulfur compound group in the ROB aerosol emissions. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy of ROB soot indicated the presence of a highly ordered primary particle nanostructure embedded in larger aggregates. Organic gas emissions were measured using EPA Methods TO-15 and TO-11A. The ROB emitted volatile oxygenates (8 mg/(kg of oil burned)) and olefins (5 mg/(kg of oil burned)) mostly unrelated to the base fuel composition. In the final analysis, the ROB tested was a source of numerous hazardous air pollutants as defined in the Clean Air Act Amendments. Approximations conducted using emissions data from the ROB tests show relatively low contributions to a regional-level anthropogenic emissions inventory for volitile organic compounds, PM 2.5, and SO2 mass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2496-2502
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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