With the EPA releasing a new set of regulations in respect to fugitive emission requirements for 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) OOOOa, we’ve taken the liberty of reading between the lines of these documents and providing you with the most relevant facts.
The EPA attempted a two-year stay unsuccessfully for certain requirements that are contained in its June 2016 ruling titled “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emissions Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources.” It turns out that there have been some objections that have caused the EPA to reconsider its initial conclusions on three specific requirements they had mandated in the 2016 regulations.
The three requirements in question were;
- The process and criteria for using alternative means of emission limitations (AMEL) while complying with the EPA.
- Whether or not low production well sites should be compelled to follow the same fugitive emission requirements?
- The potential costs and other details about the certification process of closed vent systems by a professional engineer.
Redundancies in AMEL Provisions
The EPA realized that many states have their own programs to control oil and gas emissions that might be achieving comparable, if not superior emission reduction results than required in the 201 rule. Essentially, the EPA included AMEL provisions into the regulations, allowing companies to request and obtain EPA approval from state programs as an alternative to going through the regulatory hoops of the EPA’s fugitive emission requirements.
Concerns have come up regarding who can and can’t apply and use an AMEL. Since the existing AMEL requirements are not clear enough, the EPA is concerned about potential redundancies in the process – hence why they are putting the condition on a two-year stay.
The Question of Low Production Wells
The EPA first thought that low production wells wouldn’t need to comply with fugitive emission requirements, initially thinking that lower production volumes meant lower emissions. However, they ended up changing their mind when it came to these production sites since they decided that emissions weren’t necessarily correlated to the levels of production but rather on the number of components. This conclusion, however will be stayed while they reassess.
The Technicalities of Certification
Thirdly, the EPA considers certifying the technical infeasibility of closed vent systems to be extremely important. However, the potential costs of the certification requirements during the review were not considered.
A final consideration brought to attention was that technical infeasibility exemptions are not available for well sites that are classified as “greenfield” sites – a concern that will be reassessed.
Other questions such as the timeframe for repairing leaking parts, the period of the certification process, and other requirements will be considered during this 2-year stay.
In conclusion the NSPS OOOOa is now in effect and it is important to remain compliant with both NSPS OOOO & OOOOa. For more details please refer to the EPA.