EPA Finalizes Requirements for Reducing Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Sector

By Frank Vlossak

On May 12, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final rule titled “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources”. The final rule is based on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that the EPA published on September 18, 2015. The final rule imposes significant new requirements for the oil and gas industry, including producers and natural gas pipeline operators, to identify and limit methane emissions.

Also on May 12, the EPA issued:

  • A notice announcing the “Proposed Information Collection Request; Comment Request; Information Collection Effort for Oil and Gas Facilities”. The Information Collection Request (ICR) is the first step towards establishing emissions regulations for existing oil and gas sector sources. The Obama Administration committed to issuing the ICR in March in the U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy and Arctic Leadership”. The draft ICR is subject to public comment for 60 days following its publication in the Federal Register. Once finalized, the ICR will be submitted to the industry, which must then provide the requested data to the EPA. 
  • The final rule on “Source Determination for Certain Emission Units in the Oil and Natural Gas Sector”.
  • The final rule establishing a “Federal Implementation Plan for True Minor Sources in Indian Country in the Oil and Natural Gas Production and Natural Gas Processing Segments of the Oil and Natural Gas Sector”.

As described by an EPA fact sheet, the final rule on new source emissions reductions sets “emissions limits for methane, which is the principal greenhouse gas emitted by equipment and processes in the oil and gas sector.” The final rule includes required emissions reductions for: oil and gas wells; natural gas processing plants; natural gas storage; and natural gas pipelines. Owners and operators of hydraulically fractured wells will be required to implement reduced emissions completions, also known as “green completions”. Prior to implementing green completions, covered wells must “reduce emissions using combustion controls.” The compliance date for the final rule will be sixty days following publication in the Federal Register.

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