On December 6, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) published a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register. The supplemental proposal is intended to significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (“GHGs”) and other harmful air pollutants from the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category and affects Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations (“40 CFR”) 60 Subparts OOOOb and OOOOc. These rules are specifically designed to limit methane emissions while also reducing volatile organic compound (“VOC”) emissions.
The proposed supplemental rule will contain the following concepts:
The EPA is proposing monitoring requirements for four categories of well sites:
- Single wellhead-only sites and small well sites would be required to conduct what are known as “AVO” (audio, visual, and olfactory) inspections where inspectors listen, look, and smell for leaks. These inspections would be required quarterly.
- Wellhead-only sites with two or more wellheads would be required to conduct quarterly AVO inspections and monitor every six months using optical gas imaging (“OGI”) or EPA Method 21.
- Sites with major production and processing equipment and centralized production facilities would be required to conduct bimonthly AVO inspections and monitor quarterly using OGI or EPA Method 21.
- Well sites on the Alaska North Slope would have different monitoring schedules to account for weather.
The EPA is also proposing methods for preventing emissions from abandoned and unplugged wells.
To ensure that well sites are not left unplugged and potentially leaking, the EPA is proposing that monitoring must continue at these sites until all wells have been plugged and equipment has been removed.
- Owners would have to submit a well closure plan that includes the necessary steps to close the wells, including plugging all wells, documentation of financial assurance to complete the well closure, and a schedule for completing closure activities.
- Once a well site is closed, owners/operators would have to conduct a final survey using OGI to ensure that no emissions are found. If emissions are detected, the owners/operators would have to make repairs and resurvey the site.
Super-Emitter Response Program:
- Under the proposed program, regulatory authorities or qualified third parties that have been approved by the EPA could notify owners and operators of regulated facilities when a super-emitter is detected.
- EPA is proposing to define a super-emitting event as emissions of 100 kilograms (220.5 pounds) of methane per hour or larger.
- Owners and operators would be required to conduct an analysis within five days of receiving the notification to determine the cause of the identified event.
- If the event is caused by a malfunction or abnormal operation, owners/operators would have to take corrective action within ten days.
- If fully mitigating a super-emitter would take longer than ten days, owners/operators would have to develop a corrective action plan, including a schedule for addressing the event, and submit it to the EPA or the state agency.
- To ensure that the Super-Emitter Response Program operates transparently, notices sent to oil and natural gas owners and operators would be available on a public website for easy access. The owners’ and operators’ response, along with any corrective actions taken, if needed, would also be on available on the website.
The EPA’s supplemental rule will also strengthen requirements in the following areas:
- Require “Pneumatic Pumps” to have zero emissions
- Update proposed requirements for compressors and include the establishment of emissions standards for dry seal compressors (for the first time).
- Add standards for liquids unloading.
- Update the definition of “affected facility” for pneumatic controllers.
- Update the scope of and applicability of the proposed protocol for using OGI
- Ensure that all well sites are routinely monitored for leaks, with requirements based on the type and amount of equipment at the site.
- Set a zero-emissions standard for pneumatic pumps at affected facilities in all segments of the industry (with exceptions limited to sites without access to electricity).
- Establish standards for dry seal compressors (which are currently unregulated).
- Require owners/operators of oil wells with associated gas to implement alternatives to flaring the gas, unless they submit a certified demonstration that all alternatives are not feasible for technical or safety reasons.
- Strengthen the requirements for flares to ensure that they are properly operated.
- Allow the use of a broader range of advanced technologies in lieu of OGI or Method 21. The EPA is proposing an approach that ties the frequency of required monitoring survey to the detection ability of the technology used
If you operate oil and gas sites and are unsure of how the proposed requirements of the EPA Supplemental Rule may affect you, or you would like to discuss the EPA’s concepts further, feel free to contact the environmental professionals at Spirit Environmental and we’ll be happy to assist you.
The EPA held two virtual public meetings, one on January 10, 2023, and another on January 11, 2023. While these meeting have already passed, there is still an opportunity to provide comments to the EPA regarding their proposal; comments are due on or before February 13, 2023.
If you are interested in reading EPA’s proposal, the Federal Register publication can be found here: