U.S. EPA Proposes New Rules to Curb Methane Emissions from Oil and Gas Sector
On August 18, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released proposed regulations aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from oil and gas facilities. These first-ever proposed standards are a key part of a broader strategy, under the President’s Climate Action Plan, to cut methane emissions in the sector by 40% to 45% below 2012 levels in the next decade.
Building on its 2012 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for VOC emissions for the oil and natural gas industry, EPA’s proposed updates would require that the industry also reduce methane emissions. Sources already subject to the 2012 NSPS requirements for VOC reductions, which would also be covered by the proposed 2015 methane requirements, would not have to install additional controls, because the controls to reduce VOCs reduce both pollutants. Although the three-year-old mandates targeted VOCs at the sites, the approach cut methane emissions as a side benefit.
The new proposal would go further, requiring methane and VOC reductions from hydraulically fractured oil wells, too. And, the new plan would extend those emission-cutting requirements further downstream to natural gas transmission and processing equipment.
To create the reduction, the proposed rules target oil wells, compressors and other equipment. The proposed rule will require oil and gas producers to upgrade their pumps and compressors on new wells, and expand the use of methane-capturing equipment from gas wells to oil wells. The rules would apply to new or modified sources of oil and natural gas and would capture natural gas during the completion of hydraulically fractured wells, and would limit emissions from pneumatic pumps and several other types of equipment. Owners and operators would also be required to find and repair leaks, which can be a significant source of both methane and VOC pollution.
The proposed standards for new and modified sources are expected to reduce 340,000 to 400,000 short tons of methane in 2025, the equivalent of reducing 7.7 to 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. EPA estimates the rules will yield net climate benefits of $120 million to $150 million in 2025.
EPA will take comments on these proposals for 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register and will also hold public hearings about the proposals in the months ahead.
For more information, see the EPA Proposed Rules and the Fact Sheet here.