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fracking

EPA Cracks Down on Fracking Methane Emissions

frackingThe EPA yesterday proposed standards aimed at cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.

The proposed standards for new and modified sources are expected to reduce 340,000 to 400,000 short tons of methane in 2025, the equivalent of reducing 7.7 to 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. The EPA estimates the rule will yield net climate benefits of $120 to $150 million in 2025.

Those standards are also expected to reduce 170,000 to 180,000 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in 2025, along with 1,900 to 2,500 tons of air toxics, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. Air toxics include chemicals that are known or suspected to cause cancer and other serious health effects.

The agency says the proposed standards will complement voluntary efforts, including the Methane Challenge Program, and are based on practices and technology currently used by industry. To cut methane and VOC emissions, the proposal requires:

  • Finding and repairing leaks;
  • Capturing natural gas from the completion of hydraulically fractured oil wells;
  • Limiting emissions from new and modified pneumatic pumps; and
  • Limiting emissions from several types of equipment used at natural gas transmission compressor stations, including compressors and pneumatic controllers.

As part of the proposal, the agency is updating the 2012 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) to address methane as well as VOC emissions for sources covered in that rule.

The 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. In addition, the proposal means methane and VOC reductions “downstream” from wells and production sites, covering equipment in the natural gas transmission segment of the industry that was not regulated in the agency’s 2012 oil and natural gas rules.

Additionally, the agency proposes to clarify and streamline Clean Air Act permitting requirements in states and Indian country.

Late last week the EPA issued two proposals to further reduce methane emissions from municipal solid waste landfills.

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