Validation of volatile organic compound (VOC) emission reports, especially from large industrial facilities, is rarely attempted. Given uncertainties in emission reports, their evaluation and validation will build confidence in emission inventories. It is shown that a top-down approach can provide measurement-based emission rates for such emission validation. Comparisons with emission reports from Alberta oil sands surface mining facilities revealed significant differences in VOC emissions between top-down emissions rates and reports.

Worldwide heavy oil and bitumen deposits amount to 9 trillion barrels of oil distributed in over 280 basins around the world, with Canada home to oil sands deposits of 1.7 trillion barrels. The global development of this resource and the increase in oil production from oil sands has caused environmental concerns over the presence of toxic compounds in nearby ecosystems and acid deposition. The contribution of oil sands exploration to secondary organic aerosol formation, an important component of atmospheric particulate matter that affects air quality and climate, remains poorly understood.