New data on key sources of air pollution in Oxford

The City Council has published an assessment of the sources of air pollutants across the city.

In December 2019, Oxford City Council engaged and independent global strategic engineering and environmental consultancy, Ricardo Energy & Environment, to explore which sectors (transport, domestic heating, industry heating, and other sources) contributed towards emissions across Oxford.

The study by Ricardo Energy & Environment was asked to identify relevant sectors contributing towards NOX, PM2.5 and PM10 emissions in Oxford.  The consultancy was then asked to report on which of these industries produced the greatest contributions of these emissions and to advise on reductions needed in order for the Oxford City Council to reach their air quality target.

They were also to report on the impact of the City and County Council plans to introduce a new Low Emission Zone for buses to be a minimum of Euro VI standard as part of the Oxford Zero Emission Zone proposals.

The data from this investigation will help inform the City Council’s new Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) which will be published later this year, and will outline the air quality targets and measures to be achieved between 2021-2025.

Report findings snapshot:

  • The transport sector contributes 68% of NOX emissions.
  • Domestic combustion (primarily used for domestic heating) accounts for 19% of NOX emissions.
  • Industry and service combustion accounts for 12% of NOx emissions.
  • Nature, waste, solvents, and agriculture accounts for just 0.26% of NOX emissions.

The city of Oxford is compliant with legal limits as well as WHO advisory limits for PM10 and PM 2.5, and is currently working to reduce harmful NOx emissions, such as Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) – which is currently breaching the annual mean legal limit in some areas of the city.

The Transport Sector

As expected, the report found that the transport sector is the largest contributor of NOX emission in the city, accounting for 68% of all emissions.  Diesel cars make up 33% of that figure, and buses 32%.

The study also reveals that transport contributes to 18% of PM10 and 21% PM2.5 emissions across the city – with cars contributing to 48% of PM10 and 43% of PM2.5 transport emissions.

In order to achieve compliance with the annual mean, Oxford City Council will need to reduce 22.9% of NOX emissions at High Street, 16.9% at St Clement’s Street/The Plain, 9.5% at George Street and 4.2% at Cutteslowe.

It is predicted that the introduction of EuroVI buses will see reductions of 15% and 26% NOx at Worcester Street and Botley Road respectively.

When comparing the results of this study with the study conducted in 2013, whilst the data shows a 7% decrease in NOx emissions, from 75% to 68%, this is largely in part from the 50% decrease in emission from busses (from 64% to 32%).  Emissions from cars have actually increased by 22% (from 15% to 37%).

Domestic heating

The report found that domestic combustion (which is primarily used for domestic heating) accounts for 19% of NOX, 48% of PM10 and 66% PM2.5 emissions in Oxford.

Industry heating/production

The report found that industry and service combustion (heating) accounts for 12% of NOx emissions, 26% of PM10 and 4% PM2.5 emissions in Oxford.

Other sources

Other sources such as nature, waste, solvents, and agriculture accounts for 0.26% of NOx, 7% of PM10, and 9% of PM2.5 emissions in Oxford.

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