United States: EPA Issues Guidelines Addressing VOC Emissions From Oil And Gas Sector

Last Updated: November 2 2016
Article by Charles T. Wehland and Alina Fortson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") is adopting guidelines that will ultimately require oil and gas sources in certain areas with elevated ozone concentrations to implement emissions controls for volatile organic compounds ("VOCs"). Some of the areas subject to the new guidance are in states with significant oil and gas activity, such as California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Texas. EPA links elevated ambient ozone concentrations with human health impacts, and the federal Clean Air Act therefore requires the imposition of reasonable control measures. The guidelines will have the additional effect of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as many of the VOCs that will be controlled are also greenhouse gases.

Background

EPA periodically issues documents known as Control Techniques Guidelines ("CTGs"). CTGs consist of EPA's recommendations for controlling VOC emissions from a specific source category. CTGs establish emissions limitations based on reasonably available control technology ("RACT"). RACT refers to the lowest emissions limitations that a particular source is capable of meeting through the application of control technology that is reasonably available, considering technological and economic feasibility. 1 States that are either not meeting the National Ambient Air Quality Standards ("NAAQS") for ozone, or that are within the ozone transport region, must incorporate the CTGs into their respective State Implementation Plans ("SIPs"). 2

On October 20, 2016, EPA submitted for publication in the Federal Register a Notice of Availability for a final document titled Control Techniques Guidelines for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry ("Guidelines"). The Guidelines are intended to assist states in developing plans to reduce emissions of VOCs, an ozone precursor, from certain oil and gas sources.

Summary

The Guidelines address the following sources of VOC emissions for onshore production and processing segments of the oil and natural gas industry: storage vessels, pneumatic controllers, pneumatic pumps, compressors, equipment leaks, and fugitive emissions. EPA's RACT recommendations are summarized below. 3

  • Storage Vessels: 95 percent reduction of VOC emissions, or maintain less than four tons per year ("tpy") uncontrolled actual VOC emissions.
  • Pneumatic Controllers Located at Natural Gas Processing Plants: Natural gas bleed rate of zero standard cubic feet per hour ("scfh").
  • Pneumatic Controllers Located at the Wellhead to a Natural Gas Processing Plant or at the Point of Custody Transfer to an Oil Pipeline: Natural gas bleed rate less than or equal to six scfh.
  • Pneumatic Pumps Located at Natural Gas Processing Plants: Zero VOC emissions.
  • Pneumatic Pumps Located at Well Sites: Achieve 95 percent control by routing VOC emissions to an existing onsite control device or process.
  • Reciprocating Compressors Located between the Wellhead and the Point of Custody Transfer to a Natural Gas Transmission and Storage Segment: Replace reciprocating compressor rod packing on or before 26,000 hours of operation or 36 months since the most recent rod packing replacement, or route rod packing emissions to a process through a closed vent system under negative pressure.
  • Centrifugal Compressors Located between the Wellhead and the Point of Custody Transfer to a Natural Gas Transmission and Storage Segment: 95 percent reduction of VOC emissions.
  • Equipment Leaks: Implement the leak detection and repair program at 40 C.F.R. Part 60, Subpart VVa.
  • Fugitive Emissions: Develop and implement an optical gas imaging monitoring and repair plan.

The Guidelines also include applicability thresholds. For example, the RACT recommendations for storage vessels apply only if the tank has the potential to emit greater than or equal to six tpy of VOCs. Similarly, the RACT applicability for fugitive emissions varies depending on the oil-to-gas ratio at the site and the site's per-day production volume.

In addition to explaining its RACT determinations for these various source categories, EPA also included model rule language in the Guidelines, which states may use as a starting point when formulating their new SIP provisions. 4

What to Expect Going Forward

Sources covered by the Guidelines include those located in 2008 ozone NAAQS nonattainment areas classified as "moderate" or higher. There are 28 such areas within Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Texas, and Wisconsin. The Guidelines will also affect sources located within the ozone transport region: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. 5

The Guidelines will become effective on the date that the Notice of Availability is published in the Federal Register. SIP provisions must be submitted by the above-noted states within two years of that date. EPA will then go through a notice and comment process for approving the submissions. States may choose to adopt EPA's RACT recommendations or may develop their own, as long the identified approach is consistent with the RACT provisions in the Clean Air Act and with EPA's implementing regulations, policies, and guidance. Alternatively, some areas or states may satisfy their obligations by submitting a statement to EPA certifying that there are no oil or natural gas sources within their jurisdiction. Once EPA approves a state's SIP revision, the new RACT requirements must be implemented by covered sources no later than January 1, 2021. 6

SIP revisions under the Guidelines will be an ongoing process. For example, after EPA finalizes nonattainment designations for the 2015 ozone NAAQS (expected to be effective in early 2018), states may be required to adopt or revise RACT requirements under these Guidelines within two years after the effective date of the designations. 7

Additional information about the Guidelines is available here.

Footnotes

1 Guidelines at 1-1.

2 42 U.S.C. §§ 7511a; 7511c.

3 Guidelines at Table 3-1.

4 Guidelines at Appendix A.

5 Guidelines at 1-1.

6 See EPA Memorandum, Implementing Reasonably Available Control Technology Requirements for Sources Covered by the 2016 Control Techniques Guidelines for the Oil and Natural Gas Industry (Oct. 20, 2016); EPA Fact Sheet, Final Control Techniques Guidelines for Reducing Smog-Forming Volatile Organic Compounds from the Oil and Natural Gas Industry.

7 Id.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Charles T. Wehland
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Troutman Sanders LLP
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Troutman Sanders LLP
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions