On April 17, 2012, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued final revised New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs) for the oil and natural gas industry. Four months later, EPA published those rules in the Federal Register.
EPA’s website provides summaries of the new rules’ requirements for natural gas well sites, natural gas gathering and boosting stations, gas processing plants, natural gas transmission compressor stations, and the oil industry. In short, the rules:
- Require owners and operators of fractured and refractured gas wells to use “reduced emissions completions” (also called RECs or “green completions”) or “completion combustion devices’ (e.g., flaring), so that gas and liquid hydrocarbons produced when the well is prepared for production are either captured for use or sale or burned;
- Require storage vessels with volatile organic compound (“VOC”) emissions of at least 6 tons per year to reduce those emissions by at least 95%;
- Set “natural gas bleed rate limit[s] . . . for individual, continuous bleed, natural gas-driven pneumatic controllers”;
- Require “wet seal centrifugal compressors located between the wellhead and the point at which the gas enters the transmission and storage segment” to reduce their VOC emissions by at least 95%;
- Require “reciprocating compressors located between the wellhead and the point where natural gas enters the natural gas transmission and storage segment” to take certain measures to reduce VOC emissions;
- Require leak detection and repair procedures for smaller leaks at oil and natural gas processing plants; and Impose NESHAPs on small glycol dehydration units.
The new rules are set to go into effect on October 15, 2012. The Oil and Gas Journal reports that the American Petroleum Institute has already petitioned EPA to reconsider and stay the rules.