Colorado Regulation Allows for Emissions Control Tests

By Stephen Rassenfoss 5 Mar 2014

Colorado will become a testing ground for reducing emissions from oil and gas exploration and production. A new rule, known as Regulation 7, is an early effort at reducing E&P emissions and may help resolve a contentious issue in a state that combines rich unconventional oil and gas resources and significant opposition to how they are developed.

The addition of another regulation is not necessarily a welcome event for the industry, but the collaborative process used to write the rule was praised by the head of one of the affected companies. “Hopefully it is a new way to write a regulation,” said Doug Suttles, CEO of Encana, during his keynote address at the start of the IADC/SPE Drilling Conference and Exhibition in Fort Worth, Texas.

One of the advantages of the regulation—created by an unlikely coalition of government officials, environmental groups, and oil companies—is the flexibility it offers companies for how they meet their goals to reduce emissions blamed for smog or global warming.

The result could create demand for proven technology, such as such as capture devices to reduce tank emissions and pumps that prevent natural gas from bleeding out, as well as new methods for detecting and reducing emissions.

Suttles predicted greater use of infrared cameras to detect airborne emissions as part of the required inspections needed to detect leaks. He said that the regulation will be reviewed in two years evaluate how it has worked and determine if there are better, lower-cost ways of attaining its goals.

Suttles said the new system could remove 92,000 tons of emissions a year in the Rocky Mountain state, or the equivalent of the pollution caused by every car in Colorado for a year.

The industry has a financial motive for finding better cheaper ways of finding and shutting off emissions, which a recent study found were often the produce of a few large leaks. “If hydrocarbons are not outside a pipe or a tank, you can sell it. But it is still a cost to the industry,” Suttles said.

Stephen Rassenfoss is the Emerging Technology Senior Editor for the Journal of Petroleum Technology.