Methane Guidance Suggests EPA Considering Sweeping New Petroleum Regulations
The entire natural gas system could be subject to new US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations under the White House interagency guidance on methane released on 28 March.
The 15-page document, which was called for under the president’s Climate Action Plan last year, instructs the agency to consider regulating the potent short-lived greenhouse gas at each of five stops along the natural gas supply chain. Opportunities for future rules include hydraulically fractured wells that produce oil along with gas, leaky production and transportation infrastructure, pneumatic devices, compressor stations and liquid unloading—the devises that keep oil and gas flowing from the wellhead.
The EPA has previously said it will release white papers to assess opportunities for methane reduction in each of these areas.
Those papers will be released this spring and will undergo independent technical review and public comment. The agency will then announce this fall whether it will move forward with any new regulatory actions in any of these areas. If it does, the guidance of 28 March commits the agency to finalize those rules by the end of 2016—before Obama’s second term draws to a close.
White House energy and climate adviser Dan Utech, who lead the interagency task force that produced the guidance, said the EPA will take steps to ratchet down methane from oil and natural gas regardless of whether it decides to develop regulations.
“We know that there are a lot of cost-effective reductions that are available out there,” Utech said on a call with reporters.