Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources

Last updated: 1 June 2020

This rule builds on the 2012 U.S. EPA rule that targeted volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from new upstream oil and natural gas infrastructure. This rule targets methane as well as VOCs. It extends the requirement to conduct "reduced emission completions" at natural gas wells to now include oil wells. In addition -

*the rule requires a 95% reduction of all emissions, including methane, from wet seal centrifugal compressors, requiring owners/operators to capture excess emissions and route them to a process or flare.

*the rule adds methane standards for reciprocating compressors and requires those newly triggering the requirement to replace the rod packing after 26,000 hours of operation or every 36 months.

*the rule adds methane standards for pneumatic controllers and requires those newly triggering the requirements to be replaced with low-bleed alternatives.

*pneumatic pumps at natural gas processing plants will be limited to zero methane and VOC emissions; pumps upstream must meet a 95% methane and VOC reduction target (with some exceptions where flare capacity is not available).

The rule requires semi-annual leak detection and repair inspections at well sites (targeting methane and VOCs), and quarterly inspections at compressor stations, with repairs to be made within 30 days of a detected leak at least 500 ppm. Finally, the rule includes reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

The rule does not cover liquids unloading, for lack of information.

NOTE: Under a quirk in U.S. federal law, regulating existing oil and gas infrastructure for methane triggers a separate obligation of the regulator to regulate existing infrastructure for that pollutant as well. Rather than proceed with existing source regulations, in 2019, the U.S. EPA proposed to rescind this rule. As of March 2020, the rule remains in effect.

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