Obama administration announces plans to impose new rules on oil and gas industry’s methane emissions[US]

The Obama administration has set a new goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 45 percent by 2025 from 2012 levels.  The administration announced its intention to promulgate regulations targeting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, the first of their kind to place such a limitation on industrial sources.  The proposal to limit methane gas emissions from the oil and gas industry will be issued in summer 2014 and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to finalize the rules in 2016.

Monitoring emissions from the oil & gas industry

The new rules to be promulgated by the EPA will target new and modified oil and gas wells.  Notably, existing wells are not included in these proposed regulations.  Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA Office of Air and Radiation said that the EPA’s efforts to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector build upon the 2012 standards for volatile organic compounds (VOC) set for those industries. Those standards also combined technologies and practices already in use in the oil and gas industries with new federal regulations.

New rule to improve drilling equipment standards

In addition to the rules promulgated by the EPA, the Department of Interior will also release a new rule aimed at improving drilling equipment standards to reduce the venting and flaring of methane emissions on public lands.  Furthermore, the Department of Transportation will consider reducing methane leaks when issuing new pipeline safety standards, and the president’s 2016 budget request will include $15 million for the Department of Energy (DOE) to advance research on cost-effective technology that detects leaks.  The DOE will also issue energy efficiency standards for natural gas air compressors and develop new technology that can detect methane losses.  Moreover, DOE will also take steps to encourage reduced emissions from gas transportation and distribution by working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and distribution companies to accelerate pipeline repair and replacement.

Red-on-line EHS Legal Counsel
Sources :

“FACT SHEET: Administration Takes Steps Forward on Climate Action Plan by Announcing Actions to Cut Methane Emissions”, EPA Newsroom, January 14, 2015.