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 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 are limited to zero methane and VOC emissions; pumps upstream need to meet a 95% methane and VOC reduction target (with some exceptions where flare capacity was 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 of at least 500 ppm. Finally, the rule includes reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
The rule did not cover liquids unloading, for lack of information.
NOTE: The Trump Administration proposed amendments to these regulations in August 2020 that would have removed sources in the transmission and storage segment from the source category; rescinded the requirements to reduce volatile organic compounds (VOC) and methane emissions from these sources; and separately rescinded the methane-specific requirements applicable to sources in the production and processing segments. However, the 2020 rule was disapproved by a joint resolution of Congress under the Congressional Review Act, which was signed on 30 June 2021. Thus, the 2016 rule remains in force.