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US EPA proposes legislation to control methane emissions form the oil and gas sector

19 August 2015

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new standards to reduce emissions of methane and of volatile organic compounds (VOC) from the oil and natural gas industry. The proposal is a part of the US Administration’s Climate Action Plan that aims to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45% from 2012 levels by 2025.

Methane, the key constituent of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) with a global warming potential more than 25 times greater than that of CO2. Methane is the second most prevalent GHG emitted in the United States from human activities, and nearly 30% of those emissions come from oil production and the production, transmission and distribution of natural gas, according to US EPA estimates.

The proposed standards for new and modified sources are expected to reduce 340,000 to 400,000 short tons of methane in 2025. The standards are also expected to reduce 170,000 to 180,000 tons of ozone forming VOCs in 2025, along with 1,900 to 2,500 tons of air toxics, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.

The proposed standards will complement voluntary efforts, including EPA’s Methane Challenge Program proposed earlier this year, and are based on practices and technology currently used by industry, said the EPA. To reduce methane and VOC emissions, the proposal requires:

As part of the proposal, the EPA is updating the 2012 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) to address methane as well as VOC emissions for sources covered in that rule. EPA’s proposal would also require that industry reduce VOC and methane emissions from hydraulically fractured and refractured oil wells, which can contain significant amounts of natural gas along with oil. The proposal also includes guidelines for states to reduce VOC emissions from existing oil and gas sources in certain ozone nonattainment areas as well as mid-Atlantic and Northeast states that are part of the Ozone Transport Region.

The EPA expects to finalize the rule in 2016, after a public comment period.

Source: US EPA