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New Methane Emissions Rule Includes Leak Detection, Venting, VOC Requirements

Last week the Biden Administration announced a new proposed regulation on methane emissions from oil and natural gas production. This proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would strengthen requirements on existing sources of emissions and expand the scope of sources that will fall under the new regulations. Key provisions included in the new 577-page rule include:

Methane Leak Detection at Well Sites and Compressor Stations

  • Large well sites (emitting over three tons per year) and compressor stations must perform quarterly checks for methane leaks and quickly make repairs to any leaks detected
    • Inspections must include equipment at risk of large leaks and malfunctions, storage vessels and flares
  • Small well sites (emitting less than three tons per year) will perform a one-time inspection to demonstrate the site does not have any leaks or malfunctions present
  • Medium well sites (emitting between three and eight tons per year) may be considered for semi-annual inspections in the final rule
  • Sites on the Alaska North Slope may have different inspection schedules to accommodate for extreme weather conditions
  • Lower cost Advanced Measurement Technologies may be considered an acceptable form of monitoring for quarterly inspections, but must be supplemented with an annual inspection utilizing optical gas imaging or EPA Method 21

Pneumatic Controllers and Pneumatic Pumps

  • Zero-methane and volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions will be required for all new and existing pneumatic controllers in production, processing, and transmission and storage facilities
  • All natural gas-driven diaphragm and piston pumps in the production segment of the industry, and diaphragm pumps in the transmission segment will be subject to the same requirements for new pneumatic pumps
    • Pneumatic pumps with access to an onsite control device will be required to reduce emissions by 95%
    • The presumptive methane standards for pneumatic pumps would mirror those proposed for the NSPS but exclude piston pumps for existing sources

Venting of Associated Gas from Oil Wells

  • Venting of associated gas from oil wells will be eliminated, and a requirement of at least a 95% reduction in methane and VOC emissions from associated gas that cannot be captured and sold
  • Recordkeeping and reporting requirements will be required to ensure that flares are operating properly

Storage Tanks

  • Reduction of VOC and methane emissions by 95% for new, modified, and reconstructed storage tanks or tank batteries with potential emissions of six or more tons of VOC per year will be required
  • Existing storage tanks or tank batteries with a potential emission of over 20 tons of methane per year would be required to control their emissions by 95%

Additional Methane and VOC Emissions Requirements

  • New nationwide requirements affecting methane and VOC emissions from liquids unloading
  • Increasing current leak detection and repair requirements for new natural gas processing facilities
  • Increasing standards for methane emissions from new reciprocating compressors
  • Required 95% control of emissions from wet seal degassing for existing centrifugal compressors

As soon as this proposed rule is posted to the Federal Register, there will be a 60-day public comment period to advise on the rule. Following the public comment period, the EPA has indicated there may be a supplemental proposed rule in early 2022 that would require an additional 60-day public comment period, followed by a final rule that is expected to be issued in late 2022.

The Council will submit public comments on this proposed rule. If your company would like to contribute to these comments or would like to join the Government Affairs Committee, contact SVP Government Affairs & Counsel Tim Tarpley.

Deidre Kohlrus, Director Government Affairs, writes about industry-specific policies for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Council’s newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, Council activities and more.


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