The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) has announced new requirements for horizontal drillers aimed at reducing air pollution from so-called “fugitive emissions,” which are generally caused by leaking valves or connectors in drilling equipment. The regulations specifically target methane and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) used in the drilling process.
The new rules will require operators to conduct quarterly scans of all well site equipment with infrared cameras or other devices designed to detect hydrocarbon emissions.
Mike Hopkins, OEPA’s assistant chief of air permitting, stressed that the inspections will cover the entire well site. “Every flange, every pipe, every pump, anything that could leak,” he said.
Operators must fix any leaks revealed by the scans within five days, and must submit any detection and repair reports to state regulators on an annual basis. If operators consistently record leaks of less than two percent, they can reduce the frequency of the scans.
The new rules apply only to horizontally-drilled wells, which studies have shown may emit up to twice the methane of traditional vertical wells—between one and eight percent of methane from individual wells.
Both environmentalists and members of the drilling industry expressed support for the new rules. Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, praised Governor Kasich’s “unblinking vigilance in driving down harmful emissions.”
Mike Chadsey, spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, commented that the new rule merely “incorporates new federal requirements” and thus “provides clear regulatory guidance for oil and gas operators looking to do business in Ohio.”
Ohio is the third state to adopt stricter fugitive emissions rules over the last six months. Both Wyoming and Colorado had previously adopted similar programs.