Canada: New Federal Volatile Organic Compounds Reduction Regulations For The Petroleum Sector

The government of Canada has released its proposal for the first federal regulations on volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions applicable specifically to the petroleum sector, titled Regulations to Reduce the Release of Volatile Organic Compounds (Petroleum Sector).

The proposed regulations cover facilities (Facilities) that produce liquid petroleum products by means of processing (using distillation) crude oil or bitumen, or partially refined feedstock derived from crude oil or bitumen, and requires them to regularly check and repair VOC leaks from equipment, use cleaner technologies to minimize emissions, and monitor and report results.

The government expects 18 petroleum refineries, 6 upgraders and 2 petrochemical facilities to be affected by the proposed regulations, which will be enacted under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, SC 1999, c 33, and is part of the "Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change" report to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The proposed regulations are divided into four categories: (i) Leak Detection and Repair Requirements; (ii) Requirements for Certain Equipment Components; (iii) Fenceline Monitoring Requirements; and (iv) Reporting Requirements. The proposed regulations contemplate fenceline monitoring requirements applying from and after January 1, 2018, with the bulk of the other requirements applying from and after July 1, 2019.

I. Leak Detection and Repair Requirements


  • Operators must maintain an up-to-date inventory of all equipment components in a system, if any part of the system comes into contact with a fluid that contains 10 percent or more VOCs by weight.
  • Certain equipment components will be excluded from the inventory, given low likelihoods of VOC releases, such as seal-less pumps, bellows seal valves and diaphragm valves.


  • Operators must conduct inspections using sniffers in accordance with U.S. EPA Method 21 or using optical gas imaging cameras.
  • Operators must complete three inspections per year of all equipment components in the inventory, and weekly visual inspections of all pumps in their inventory.
  • Inspectors for Facilities must complete training in the use of leak detection instruments and in conducting leak inspections using those instruments, prior to conducting inspections.
  • Pumps that have a dual mechanical seal system with a barrier fluid system and meet certain standards will be exempt from inspection.

Leak Repairs

  • Operators must quantify any identified leak, using a sniffer, before any repairs are made.
  • Leaks are classified as "significant leaks" if: (i) for compressors, the leak results in a VOC concentration of 1,000 ppmv or more; or (ii) for all other equipment components, the leak results in a VOC concentration of 10,000 ppmv or more until December 31, 2024, and of 1,000 ppmv or more thereafter.
  • Significant leaks must be repaired within 15 days of detection, within 60 days if the repair cannot be completed within 15 days, or during the next facility shutdown if the repair requires a full or partial facility shutdown.
  • Operators must replace equipment that experiences three significant leaks over 24 consecutive months.

II. Requirements for Certain Equipment Components

Open-Ended Lines

  • Operators must plug the ends of a pipe to minimize the release of VOCs into the environment except during operations that require the ends of a pipe to be open.

Pressure Relief Devices and Sampling Systems

  • Pressure relief devices and sampling systems connected to pipes must be designed and used in a manner that minimizes release of VOCs into the environment.
  • If a pressure release occurs, corrective action must be taken in 6 days.


  • Operators must equip compressors with either a mechanical seal system with a barrier fluid system or a closed-vent system to capture VOC leakage.

III. Fenceline Monitoring Requirements

Samples and Sampling Locations

  • Operators must establish at least 12 sampling locations around their Facilities and collect samples every 14 days, from April to December.
  • Operators must analyze the samples to determine the concentration of benzene and 1,3-butadiene, as well as the total concentration of all retainable VOCs.


  • Operators will be able to decrease the analysis frequency for 1,3-butadiene from every 14 days to every 6 months, if 19 consecutive results are obtained that are below the applicable detection limit.

IV. Reporting Requirements

  • Operators must carry out certain activities in relation to record keeping, reporting and auditing. Reporting methods to the Minister of the Environment are still under consideration to maximize alignment with other jurisdictions and the use of single-window reporting tools, where available and appropriate.

Stakeholders have until July 27, 2017, to provide comments to Environment and Climate Change Canada on the proposed regulations.

In tandem with the proposed regulations, the >government has also proposed Regulations Respecting Reduction in the Release of Methane and Certain Volatile Organic Compounds (Upstream Oil and Gas Sector), which introduces facility and equipment level standards to reduce fugitive and venting emissions of hydrocarbons, including methane, from Canada's oil and gas industries.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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