Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the pre-publication version of its final New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) rulemaking to reduce emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds from new, modified, and reconstructed sources. The agency received more than 900,000 public comments on the proposed NSPS rulemaking that was released in August 2015.
The EPA-issued draft Information Collection Request (ICR) directed oil and natural gas companies to submit extensive information to support the development of a federal rule targeting existing sources.
As a part of the new regulations, operators and required to implement leak monitoring plans and use optical gas imagining to conduct leak surveys. If the wells have been hydraulically fractured, gas needs to be captured through green completions – separating gas and liquids from flowback in order to be treated, used or sold. The rule, which will be phased in, does not apply if it is not “technically feasible to get the gas to a pipeline.” If that is the case, combustion must be used during the well completion process to lower emissions.
Operators of diaphragm pumps at natural gas wells must also route methane and VOC emissions from the pumps to a control device or process on-site.
“Today, we are underscoring the Administration’s commitment to finding commonsense ways to cut methane—a potent greenhouse gas fueling climate change—and other harmful pollution from the oil and gas sector,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Together these new actions will protect public health and reduce pollution linked to cancer and other serious health effects while allowing industry to continue to grow and provide a vital source of energy for Americans across the country.”
The EPA ruling has been met with strong criticism from the API Vice President of Regulatory and Economic Policy Kyle Isakower, who argued that the new regulations could harm America’s shale energy revolution, which has lowered US carbon emissions and costs for American consumers by more than US$550 at the pump in 2015, and added US$1337 in disposable income per household in 2015.
“The industry is already leading the way on methane reductions because it is good for the environment and good for business,” Isakower said. “Even as oil and natural gas production has risen dramatically, methane emissions have fallen, thanks to industry leadership and investment in new technologies.”
“It doesn’t make sense that the administration would add unreasonable and overly burdensome regulations when the industry is already leading the way in reducing emissions. Imposing a one size fits all scheme on the industry could actually stifle innovation and discourage investments in new technologies that could serve to further reduce emissions.”
“Natural gas is a proven source of clean, affordable, and reliable energy. The development and use of natural gas from shale has helped the US lead the world in cutting power sector carbon emissions, which are near 20 year lows. The last thing we need is more duplicative and costly regulation that could discourage natural gas production, disrupt our progress reducing emissions, and increase the cost of energy for American consumers.”
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