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Remote Sensing VOC Project

A research project of the Texas Air Quality Field Study to identify emission sources of volatile organic compounds that may have gone unreported or under-reported in the TCEQ's emissions inventory.

The Remote Sensing VOC Project is an air quality field study research project to identify emission sources of volatile organic compounds that may have gone unreported or under-reported in the TCEQ’s emissions inventory.


Research helicopter with HAWK camera
Research helicopter with HAWK camera

Helicopter Flights

The TCEQ will be conducting helicopter flights around the Houston Ship Channel, the Texas City industrial area, and the Beaumont–Port Arthur industrial areas using an infrared camera to identify VOC emissions. The HAWK infrared video camera can view VOC plumes, such as gasoline vapors and ethylene, that cannot be seen by the human eye.

The helicopter is white with PATROL marked underneath in large green letters. It is also marked with its Federal Aviation Administration license number, N160TX. The project will have clearance from the FAA. The subcontractor will fly over these industrial areas in a grid pattern, and may hover when needed (for example, if a leak is identified) to gather images and data on emission sources.

Homeland-Security Considerations

A notification letter ( sample) is being sent to affected industrial sites, regional law-enforcement agencies, emergency-management networks and industrial trade groups to inform them of the agency’s intent to use a low-flying helicopter for air-quality research. Remote sensing observations are scheduled to begin and end in July. The observations will be conducted primarily by the TCEQ–s contractor, Lamar University, using Leak Surveys, Inc., as its subcontractor.

Additional VOC Remote Sensing

The TCEQ also plans to conduct additional remote sensing observations from public roads, public areas, stationary elevated positions, and public waterways such as the Houston Ship Channel. If VOC emission plumes are identified, the apparent owner or operator of the source will be contacted by letter ( sample) and asked to identify the source, nature, and emission rate of the emissions identified. Other information may be requested on specific source types.

Contact Us

  • Telephone—Adam Bullock: 512-239-5155 or Russ Nettles: 512-239-1493
  • E-mailaqp@tceq.texas.gov (please put “Remote Sensing VOC” in the subject line)
  • List Server—The TCEQ has set up an e-mail list server to notify interested parties of the approximate location and dates of observations during the observation phase of this project. Interested parties may subscribe to the e-mail list server by sending an e-mail to:
    join-rsense_voc@listserv.tceq.state.tx.us.

Related Information

These web pages have more information on the use of infrared-camera technology for research on VOC emissions, aircraft-based monitoring, and the Texas Air Quality Field Study: