The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced comprehensive proposed rules aimed at sharply reducing methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry. The new rules would, for the first time, apply to thousands of existing oil and gas sites, in addition to updating rules and standards for new facilities. The natural gas industry is the largest industrial source of methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas that traps about 30 times as much heat as carbon dioxide over 100 years. The proposal is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to combat climate change. Natural gas facilities emit more methane than the total emissions of all greenhouse gas emissions from 164 countries combined, the EPA said in a press release, in addition to putting smog-forming volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere. The proposed rule would reduce methane emissions from well sites, pipelines, and related facilities and equipment by 74 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. Key features of the plan include: · A comprehensive monitoring program for new and existing well sites and compressor stations; · A compliance option that allows owners and operators the flexibility to use advanced technology that can find major leaks more rapidly and at a lower cost than ever before; · A zero-emissions standard for new and existing pneumatic controllers, certain types of which account for approximately 30 percent of current methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector;
· Standards to eliminate venting of associated gas, and require capture and sale of gas where a sales line is available, at new and existing oil wells; · Proposed performance standards and presumptive standards for other new and existing sources, including storage tanks, pneumatic pumps, and compressors; and · A requirement that states engage with overburdened and underserved communities, among other stakeholders, in developing state plans. Appalachian natural gas producers, many of which have been at the forefront of efforts to reduce methane emissions, were in support of the proposed regulations. “As methane is the very product Pennsylvania gas producers sell, it makes economic and environmental sense to ensure methane is safety and efficiently transported to market,” said Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Callahan. Marcellus and Utica gas producers have largely stopped flaring gas as is done in other areas. In addition, major producers including EQT, Range Resources, and CNX have set or are developing net-zero emissions plans, and have announced plans for continuous methane monitoring at well sites. The state Department of Environmental Protection also recently released final draft rules to cut methane emissions from existing oil and gas sites. However, the rules, exempt most of the state’s 71,229 conventional wells because they produce fewer than 15 barrels of oil equivalents per day, drawing criticism from some environmental groups. The rules will require well owners who exceed that production standard to conduct leak inspections every three months and also set emissions requirements for storage tanks, compressor station equipment, and other facilities. The new rules are part of an ongoing effort by Gov. Tom Wolf to address methane emissions, as regulations for new wells were implemented in 2019. The latest proposal is expected to prevent more than 11,000 tons of volatile organic compounds and 213,000 tons of methane from leaking into the atmosphere annually.