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EPA Finalizes Emissions Reporting Rules for Petroleum, Natural Gas Plants

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized rules that will require oil and gas facilities and some electronics manufacturing plants to report on their greenhouse gas emissions next year, as part of the agency’s mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, reports The New York Times. The federal agency also has issued a supeona to Halliburton over fracking data.

The new regulations will add the oil and gas sector as well as industries that emit fluorinated gases and facilities that inject and store carbon dioxide underground to EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. The EPA already requires 31 industries, that account for 85 percent of the annual production of U.S. greenhouse gases in the country, to track and report emissions. The mandatory GHG reporting requirement was finalized last year.

Additional industries will have to start reporting on January 1, 2011.

Beginning in 2011, petroleum and natural gas facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually will be required to monitor and report all greenhouse gas emissions to EPA. Data collection for petroleum and natural gas sources will begin January 1, 2011, with first annual reports due to EPA March 31, 2012.

The agency also finalized reporting rules for sources of fluorinated greenhouse gases, including factories that build semiconductors, solar cells and electric transmission equipment, reports The New York Times. The EPA says theses sources produce about 2 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gases.

“Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and the public has a right to know about the extensive methane pollution that is leaked, vented, and flared from the oil and gas industry,” said Dr. Ramon Alvarez, an atmospheric scientist with Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement. “EPA’s action in requiring disclosure of this harmful pollutant will mean more rigorous information and smarter policies to address these emissions.”

Opponents of the new rules including the American Petroleum Institute said in the article that the EPA has underestimated the cost of compliance. The industry group has said that many oil and gas producers rely on smaller facilities in remote areas so the industry will have a harder time complying than other sectors, according to The New York Times.

While the EPA estimates that the rules for the oil and gas industry will cost $62 million for the first year and $19 million in following years, some oil and gas companies estimate that the average company will need to spend between $100,000 and $850,000 on data management software, which equates to about $123 million to $1 billion in costs for the industry, reports The New York Times.

In response, the EPA says the regulations will not require any costly technology; ordinary spreadsheet software will be “capable of managing far more data than will be necessary” for even the largest facilities, according to the article.

In other EPA news, eight out of the nine U.S. hydraulic fracturing have agreed to voluntarily submit timely and complete information to help the agency conduct its study on hydraulic fracturing, which will examine the impact of the hydraulic fracturing process on drinking water quality.

The EPA reports that the ninth company, Halliburton, failed to provide the agency with the information requested  in order to move forward with the study. As a result, the EPA has issued a subpoena to the company requiring submission of the requested information.

EPA’s congressionally mandated hydraulic fracturing study will look at the potential adverse impact of the practice on drinking water and public health. The agency is expected to provide initial results by the end of 2012.

The EPA also said it would solicit input from the public through a series of public meetings in major oil and gas production regions, which it has completed.

On September 9, EPA reached out to nine leading national and regional hydraulic fracturing service providers — BJ Services, Complete Production Services, Halliburton, Key Energy Services, Patterson-UTI, RPC, Inc., Schlumberger, Superior Well Services, and Weatherford — seeking information on the chemical composition of fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing process, data on the impacts of the chemicals on human health and the environment, standard operating procedures at their hydraulic fracturing sites and the locations of sites where fracturing has been conducted.

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