Characterization of hydrocarbons, halocarbons and carbonyls in the atmosphere of Hong Kong

Hai Guo, Shuncheng Lee, P. K.K. Louie, K. F. Ho

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Ambient air quality measurements of 156 species including 39 alkanes, 32 alkenes, 2 alkynes, 24 aromatic hydrocarbons, 43 halocarbons and 16 carbonyls, were carried out for 120 air samples collected at two sampling stations (CW and TW) in 2001 throughout Hong Kong. Spatial variations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the atmosphere were investigated. Levels of most alkanes and alkenes at TW site were higher than that at the CW site, while the BTEX concentrations at the two sites were close. The BTEX ratios at CW and TW were 1.6:10.1:1.0:1.6 and 2.1:10.8:1.0:2.0, respectively. For major halogenated hydrocarbons, the mean concentrations of chloromethane, CFCs 12 and 22 did not show spatial variations at the two sites. However, site-specific differences were observed for trichloroethene and tetrachloroethene. Furthermore, there were no significant differences for carbonyls such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acetone between the two sites. The levels of selected hydrocarbons in winter were 1-5 times that in summer. There were no common seasonal trends for carbonyls in Hong Kong. The ambient level of formaldehyde, the most abundant carbonyl, was higher in summer. However, levels of acetaldehyde, acetone and benzaldehyde in winter were 1.6-3.8 times that in summer. The levels of CFCs 11 and 12, and chloromethane in summer were higher than that in winter. Strong correlation of most hydrocarbons with propene and n-butane suggested that the primary contributors of hydrocarbons were vehicular emissions in Hong Kong. In addition, gasoline evaporation, use of solvents, leakage of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas leakage and other industrial emissions, and even biogenic emissions affected the ambient levels of hydrocarbons. The sources of halocarbons were mainly materials used in industrial processes and as solvents. Correlation analysis suggested that photochemical reactions made significant contributions to the ambient levels of carbonyls in summer whereas in winter motor vehicle emissions would be the major sources of the carbonyls. The photochemical reactivity of selected VOCs was estimated in this study. The largest contributors to ozone formation were formaldehyde, toluene, propene, m,p-xylene, acetaldehyde, 1-butene/i-butene, isoprene and n-butane, suggesting that motor vehicles, gasoline evaporation, use of solvents, leakage of LPG, photochemical processes and biogenic emission are sources in the production of ozone. On the other hand, VOCs from vehicles and gasoline evaporation were predominant with respect to reactions with OH radical.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1363-1372
Number of pages10
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2004


  • Carbonyls
  • Correlation
  • Halocarbons
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Photochemical reactivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)

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