In final rules released on April 18, EPA has imposed first time air emissions controls on hydraulic fracturing wells, as well as on other gas operations. However, EPA granted industry’s request to delay implementation of the fracking controls until 2015 in order to ensure the availability of the required technology to control the emissions.
The rule includes new source performance standards (NSPSs) and air toxics standards for gas drilling, emissions controls for natural gas storage and transmission equipment, and controls on other items of equipment used in the oil and gas industry. Included is a mandate for green completion well controls for fracking wells, also known as reduced emissions completions (RECs). The green completion requirements are delayed until 2015, with a mandate that well drillers flare their emissions until then to control emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). EPA also exempted many coal-bed methane wells from the REC requirements, finding that the control technology is not suitable for those low-pressure wells.
The delayed implementation of the green completion requirements for fracking wells was responsive to industry’s claims that sufficient pollution control equipment would not be available in time for immediate implementation of the requirements, which would result in a reduction in gas drilling until the equipment became available. Once implemented, EPA estimates that the controls will reduce VOC emissions annually by 190,000 to 290,000 tons, reduce air toxics emissions by 12,000 to 20,000 tons annually, and reduce methane emissions as a side benefit by 1 million to 1.7 million tons annually.