Byers Emissions Analysis – Empowering Sustainable Commercial Cannabis

by Byers Scientific | April 22, 2021 | Blog | Emissions | Resources

Byers Emissions Analysis (BEA) identifies, measures, models and assesses cannabis plant emissions serving operators, regulators and communities. BEA provides critical site-specific emissions data to empower informed decisions and offer solutions to odor and emission challenges with an emphasis on environmental sustainability. A significant portion of the molecules emitted off cannabis plants are Biogenic Volatile Organic Compounds (BVOCs) which are known contributors to low ozone formation and therefore, climate change under certain environmental conditions. Understanding this risk is important to commercial cannabis enterprises as they navigate the choppy waters of compliance and community relations.

The research team at BEA offers services that are imperative to the scientific understanding of both environmental and social impacts of air quality and odor emissions from cannabis. The industrial odor and emissions experts at BEA bring their vetted experience to the cannabis industry helping prevent and reduce negative impacts to communities and the environment from cannabis plant emissions in greenhouse, indoor and outdoor operations.

Cannabis Emissions Research and Impacts to Environmental Sustainability

The BEA team is led by Dr. William Vizuete a pioneering researcher who has been studying the cannabis industry’s potential contribution to environmental and social areas of concern for the last six years. His initial study conducted in Denver, Colorado, in 2017 proved to be a valuable reference for the NCIA Environmental Sustainability Whitepaper published in 2020.  Through his work with BEA, Dr. Vizuete seeks to answer the common questions surrounding cannabis plant emissions, including BVOCs and other odor-causing compounds, at commercial cultivation sites and their impact on air quality and/or community odor issues. Dr. Vizuete seeks to answer the common questions surrounding cannabis plant emissions, including BVOCs and other odor-causing compounds, at commercial cultivation sites and their impact on air quality and/or community odor issues.

Dr. Vizuete’s Colorado study was the first time such an analysis had been conducted anywhere in the United States. His study resulted in the first VOC emissions inventory to be compiled for the cannabis industry in VOC-limited and EPA designated Non-Attainment area Denver, Colorado. The research used an ensemble of regional scale regulatory modeling to predict impacts of cannabis terpenes (BVOCs) on ozone concentrations. Terpenes are highly reactive compounds with variable atmospheric lifetimes altering the atmospheric oxidizing capacity, resulting in a range of low volatility products that can partition into the aerosol-phase and depending on concentration of NOx, lead to the formation of ozone.

A takeaway from Dr. Vizuete’s study is the need for continued research and more molecular-level measurements of cannabis emission profiles analyzed with hyper-localized meteorological (MET) data to understand the impacts of cannabis emissions on region-specific outdoor air quality and odor issues.

Byers Emissions Analysis and the Future of Sustainability for Cannabis

Byers Emissions Analysis is continuously expanding its database of strain-specific terpene profiles. This library allows regulatory bodies to understand and consider the emissions profile variances by both cannabis lifecycle and strain and the calculated emissions factors for each molecule emitted from the plant when considering potential rules and regulations. Emissions factors act as a baseline metric allowing regulatory bodies to make sound decisions around requirements for BVOC limits and controls set for the cannabis industry. BEA’s focus on understanding emissions factors for these BVOCs are imperative to the quantification of commercial cannabis’s contribution (or lack thereof) to various environmental impacts in support of environmental sustainability.

As the commercial cannabis market scales significantly, it is even more imperative that stakeholders, regulators and operators understand the molecular footprint of commercial cannabis cultivation and processing. BEA is the ideal partner to provide the data necessary to measure these impacts to both outdoor air quality and community odor complaints. BEA’s ability to calculate  gas-phase concentrations using EPA approved air quality models equips cannabis businesses and regulators with the data they need to position themselves as stewards of the environment and communities keeping the focus on revenue-generating operations.

True Environmental Sustainability Includes People

Cannabis odor-causing compounds, including the recently identified thiol, 3-methyl, 2-butane, 1-thiol, are the culprits behind community odor complaints nearby commercial cannabis operations that are jeopardizing the industry. Left unaddressed, cannabis odor is arguably the single biggest risk to commercial cannabis operations. However, many cannabis cultivation and processing operations are working hard to show their responsibility for environmental sustainability by controlling their site’s odor for the benefit of their communities. People are often a lost element in conversations around sustainability; however, addressing these perceived odor impacts from communities living nearby commercial cannabis businesses is required to be a truly sustainable operation.