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US introduces stricter methane emission regulations

13 May 2016

On May 12 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final set of regulations aimed at reducing emissions of methane from the oil and gas industry. One-third of methane emissions come from well pads, compressor stations, processing plants and other equipment used in oil and natural gas production. This is another action taken under President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, first announced in June 2013.

Stock image
Stock image

The new standards aim to reduce methane methane and volatile organic compound emissions from the industry by between 40 and 45% of 2012 levels by 2025.

“Today, we are underscoring the Administration’s commitment to finding common sense ways to cut methane — a potent greenhouse gas fueling climate change — and other harmful pollution from the oil and gas sector,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement. “Together these new actions will protect public health and reduce pollution linked to cancer and other serious health effects while allowing industry to continue to grow and provide a vital source of energy for Americans across the country.”

The regulations would require the industry to limit releases of methane from upstream and downstream sites and would phase in ‘green completion’ requirements to ensure operators capture the methane that is currently flared at existing wells.

The new rules could hit smaller producers at a time when many are suffering from the effects of low prices. A proposal released last August would have exempted low-producing operators from monitoring their wells for leaks. But the agency removed that exemption in the final standards.

“While the oil and natural gas industry continues to make historic gains in improving our environment, unjustified political regulations only set back the cause by freezing private sector investment and innovations that are working,” Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, said in a statement.

But environmental groups have supported the new regulations. The EPA said its new rules will yield $690 million in climate benefits in 2025, outweighing the estimated cost to industry of $530 million.

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