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EPA Proposes Changes to Methane Control at Petroleum Operations

November 10, 2021

November 1, 2021, EPA proposed revisions to current control requirements (New Source Performance Standard OOOO) and addition of new requirements for methane emissions from:

  1. Oil and Natural Gas Well Sites
  2. Natural Gas Gathering and Boosting Compressor Stations
  3. Natural Gas Processing
  4. Transmission and Storage

This would be the third increase in emission requirements for these sectors of industry since 2002. EPA is asking for public comments on the proposal which they say will form the basis of a “supplemental proposal” slated for 2022 and eventual promulgation in “late 2022”. In other words, EPA is making the announcement while COP26 is going on in Glasgow, Scotland not because the proposal is ready.

The proposal would require “hundreds of thousands” of oil and natural gas well sites throughout the country to install measurement systems to measure “fugitive emissions” of methane (methane that leaks out of pipelines and equipment at those sites). Once identified those “fugitive emissions” would need to be controlled by tightening junctions or replacing parts so that the emissions are minimized or eliminated. These kind of controls of fugitive emissions have been in place at refineries and chemical plants for decades, but not at well sites and gas collection and processing facilities in the ways now proposed.

Well sites with more than 3 tons per year of “estimated” fugitive emissions will need to survey the potential fugitive emission points quarterly using traditional methods which use a handheld device to find leaking locations or using Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) systems to discover the leaks. The methodology and use of OGI is one of the reasons for delaying the proposal to hash out how OGI would be used.

Once a leak is discovered, it must be repaired within certain time limits.

All new and existing wells, compressor stations, flares, tanks and hatches would be included in surveys.

Because the old methods of “sniffing” each potential leak location (EPA Method 21) is labor intensive and difficult to manage, EPA is requesting that new wide area survey techniques such as OGI be evaluated and proposed by owners and equipment manufacturers for consideration by EPA to accomplish this currently expensive task. The proposal schedule is a short time period for much of a research effort.

The proposal also requires zero emissions from pneumatic controllers, elimination of venting of gas from oil well locations, greatly increased controls on all oil and gas storage tanks, unloading of liquids, and more controls on compressors. EPA is also considering controls on abandoned and unplugged wells, oil field flares, pipeline pigging, and tank truck loading.

The proposal seeks to reduce 41 million tons of methane emissions through 2035 and cost $49 billion over that time span.

Contract TRC for assistance at any facility with all or parts of the program implementation and analysis of costs for your facilities.

Gale F Hoffnagle

Gale F. Hoffnagle, CCM, QEP is a Senior Vice President and technical Director in the Air Quality Consulting Practice. He has 52 years of consulting experience and 38 years of service to TRC. He advised clients on the Clean Air Act amendments of 1977 and 1990. Contact Gale at

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