On August 5, 2013 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued updates to its April 2012 oil and natural gas standards for storage tanks. The updates will phase in emission control deadlines, starting with higher-emitting tanks first. EPA says it is making the changes based on information received after the 2012 standards were issued that shows more storage tanks will come online than the agency originally estimated.

Storage tanks that emit 6 or more tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) a year must reduce emissions by 95 percent. The rule establishes two emission control deadlines:

  • tanks that come online after April 12, 2013 are likely to have higher emissions and must control VOC emissions within 60 days or by April 15, 2014, whichever is later; and
  • tanks that came online before April 12, 2013 are likely to have lower emissions and must control VOC emissions by April 15, 2015.

The updated rule also establish an alternative emissions limit that would allow owners/operators to remove controls from tanks if they can demonstrate that the tanks emit less than 4 tons per year of VOC emissions without controls. In addition, EPA says the rule streamlines compliance and monitoring requirements for tanks that have already installed controls. The oil and natural gas industry uses tanks for temporary storage of crude oil, condensate and other liquids, before those liquids are moved to a pipeline, sold or moved for disposal. These storage tanks can be sources of emissions of regulated constituents including ozone-forming VOCs, along with several labeled toxic air pollutants, such as benzene. The rule does not affect the April 2012 standards for capturing natural gas from hydraulically fractured wells.