The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed new standards to cut emissions of greenhouse gases and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from oil and gas facilities.
The announcement is part of a broader strategy under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to cut methane emissions in the oil and gas industry by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels in the next 10 years.
Intended to complement voluntary efforts, the proposed standards will require oil and gas processing and transmission facilities to:Find and repair leaks;Capture natural gas from the completion of hydraulically fractured oil wells;Limit emissions from new and modified pneumatic pumps; andLimit emissions from several types of equipment used at natural gas transmission compressor stations, including compressors and pneumatic controllers.
The EPA’s announcement coincided with the release of a new study revealing that methane emissions in the U.S. natural gas supply chain are much higher than previously thought.
According to the report, published in Environmental Science & Technology, facilities that consolidate gas from multiple wells and feed it into processing plants or pipelines emit about one hundred billion cubic feet of natural gas a year — around eight times previous EPA estimates.
The Environmental Defense Fund said that emissions from thousands of gathering facilities across the United States are largely uncounted in federal statistics, yet they may be the largest methane source in the oil and gas supply chain.
The newly identified emissions from gathering facilities would increase total estimated emissions from the natural gas supply chain by approximately 25 percent.
Responding to the report, Mark Sutton, president and CEO of the Gas Processors Association, said:
“We are encouraged that this study shows much lower emissions on the processing side. The study shows that the processing sector has less emissions than EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory, which is the national inventory of greenhouse gas emissions that EPA conducts across industry segments.
“On the gathering side, the report concludes that emissions from gathering are underestimated. It is important to note that EPA recently proposed to expand its Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule to include gathering and booster stations that would subject gathering and booster stations to new reporting criteria. GPA has been very active in that rule-making and believes that rule, once finalized, would provide more clarity to the situation and a much more comprehensive view of emissions data.”