U.S. Plans Methane Emissions Cuts

file photo: gas storage

By The Maritime Executive 08-18-2015 07:48:38

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced standards that would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and volatile organic compounds (VOC) from the oil and natural gas industry. 

The proposal is a part of the Obama Administration’s strategy to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.

Methane, the key constituent of natural gas, is a potent GHG with a global warming potential more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities, and nearly 30 percent of those emissions come from oil production and the production, transmission and distribution of natural gas. 

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

Industry body, API has issued a statement saying the EPA’s proposals are duplicative, costly and undermine America’s competitiveness. The industry has already led the significant reduction in methane through innovation and existing regulations, says API President and CEO Jack Gerard.

“The oil and gas industry is leading the charge in reducing methane,” he said. “The last thing we need is more duplicative and costly regulation that could increase the cost of energy for Americans. Even as oil and natural gas production has surged, methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells have fallen nearly 79 percent since 2005, and CO2 emissions are down to 27-year lows. This is due to industry leadership and significant investments in new technologies.”

EPA’s own analysis shows that methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells have fallen dramatically, says Gerard. Total methane emissions from natural gas systems are down 11 percent since 2005 – a direct result of industry innovation at the same time production has increased significantly. 

“API supports a common sense regulatory approach that builds on cost-effective controls already required by EPA for new equipment,” Gerard said. “Combined with smart, voluntary efforts for existing sources, this approach will continue to lower methane emissions. To avoid undermining American competitiveness, we urge the EPA to coordinate its efforts and not add duplicative rules.”

The EPA will take comments on the proposals for 60 days.