For many decades, Open Burning/Open Detonation (OB/OD) has been used as a safe and economic munitions demilitarization for energetic material disposal. Field OB/OD air emissions have been very difficult to characterize because of short event duration, rapid dispersion, heterogeneous emission concentrations, large plume lift, soil entrainment, and explosion safety restrictions.

The objectives of this project are to develop a new conceptual framework for comprehensive air emission characterization from full-scale open burning (OB) and open detonation (OD) operations, evaluate the feasibility of the new air emission characterization technologies at real field conditions, use the new technology to characterize air emissions from full-scale high explosive (HE) OB operations, and develop air emission factors for HE-OB operations. The results will provide a firm scientific basis for the Department of Defense (DoD) to protect human health and the environment.

Technical Approach

The feasibility study consisted of in situ and optical remote sensing (ORS) sampling, analysis and monitoring. The in situ sampling configuration included fixed position samplers, and airborne sampling. The aerial platform used a balloon-lofted instrument package called the “Flyer”. The instrument pack was lofted with a He-filled balloon and maneuvered by two tethers connected to two all-terrain-vehicles (ATVs). Continuous measurements of CO2 and co-sampled PM-10, volatile organic compounds, and semi-volatile organic compounds allowed determination of emission factors.

The ORS system included active and passive open-path Fourier Transform Infrared (OP-FTIR) spectrometers, Ultraviolet Differential Absorption Spectrometers (UV-DOAS), and a Micropulse LIght Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) (MPL). The ORS samplers were complemented with Tapered Elemental Oscillating Microbalance (TEOM) measurements. The system was designed to measure PM-10 with TEOM and a MPL; and gaseous pollutants with active and passive OPFTIR and UV-DOAS systems.


Results indicated that (1) the Flyer was an effective tool to measure PM-10 and gaseous air emissions from OB/OD, (2) the MPL-based system monitored the cross section of the entire plume and could monitor PM-10 with or without TEOM measurements after an average PM-10 mass extinction efficiency value was established through TEOM and MPL readings, (3) the active OP-FTIR was able to detect a few gaseous emissions and (4) UV-DOAS and passive OPFTIR were not an effective monitoring tool for measuring gaseous emissions. Overall, the project successfully completed the field campaign and provided results that determined the feasibility of the deployed measurement systems.  This work is being continued as part of SERDP Project WP-2153.


Results from this project will provide DoD with a tool and methodology to effectively estimate air emissions from OB, address OB emission data gaps, and provide scientific data to comply with environmental regulations and to proactively protect human health and the environment.