4 The record articles

Comment Period Ticking for Oil and Gas Proposed Actions

Posted: October 26th, 2015

Authors: JP K. 

As you may recall from recent ALL4 blog posts on 8/27/2015, 9/14/2015, and 9/15/2015, there are several oil and gas industry regulatory actions in the works.  Two proposed rules and a notice of availability affecting the oil and gas industry were published in the Federal Register on 9/18/2015: NSPS Subpart OOOOa, Source Determination Rule, and draft Control Technology Guidelines (CTGs), respectively.  This action starts the 60-day clock to comment with a resulting deadline of 11/17/2015.  If you haven’t already, now is the time to consider how these proposed actions may adversely affect your operations and to prepare comments to voice your concerns on the record.

U.S. EPA is soliciting specific comments on many topics including (but not limited to) applicability thresholds, methods of compliance, and definitions contained in the proposed rules.  Owners/operators are encouraged to evaluate the effects of the proposed requirements and provide information for consideration prior to promulgation of the final rules.  A few of the topics and questions you may want to consider include (page numbers reference NSPS Subpart OOOOa):

  • Alternative fugitive compliance approaches [FR Page 56596]

    U.S. EPA is proposing annual, semiannual, and quarterly fugitive emissions surveys for well sites and compressor stations.  The surveys will require the use of optical gas imaging (OGI) technology.

    • How can well sites and other emission sources that operate under corporate or state mandated fugitive monitoring programs demonstrate they are meeting the equivalent of the NSPS standards?
    • What criteria could be used to demonstrate compliance for alternative approaches?
    • Are there other fugitive emission detection technologies (other than OGI) that should be considered for use?
  • Fugitive monitoring surveys [FR Page 56612]

    U.S. EPA is proposing initial fugitive emissions surveys for new well sites to be conducted within 30 days of the end of a well completion or upon the date the site begins production, whichever is later. An initial survey would also be required within 30 days of a site modification for modified wells.

    • Is 30 days an appropriate time period to conduct an initial survey of “fugitive emissions components” following startup or modification?
    • Is 15 days an appropriate amount of time to repair sources of fugitive emissions?
  • Proposed exclusions:

    • Low production well sites (the average daily production is 15 barrels of oil equivalent or less) are proposed to be excluded from well completion and fugitive emission provisions [FR Page 56612].  Is the 15 barrel equivalents threshold appropriate to define low production well sites, or does it need to be adjusted?  U.S. EPA is specifically requesting information on low production well emissions, characteristics, and how these types of wells can be identified prior to completion.
    • Oil wells that have a gas-to-oil ratio (GOR) of less than 300 scf of gas per barrel of oil produced are proposed to be excluded from the well completion provisions [FR Page 56633].  Is this threshold appropriate?  Can it be demonstrated that the GOR of a new or modified well can be reliably determined based on the GOR of nearby wells?
    • Are there certain types of well sites that have inherently low fugitive emissions of methane or VOC?  If so, descriptions, characteristics, and data that demonstrate the low fugitive emissions of these type(s) of well sites are requested to be provided [FR Page 56633].
  • Well completion provisions timeline:

    Can these provisions be implemented by the effective date of the rule, or is a shortage of reduced emissions completion (REC) equipment and/or operators anticipated?  If it is not a reasonable amount of time, how much time would be reasonable?  If a phase in approach is utilized, what factors should determine which wells would need to comply first?

  • Pressure-assisted flares:

    According to U.S. EPA, these flares are operated at velocities higher than the maximum exit velocity specified in 40 CFR 60.18(b) for common hydrocarbon gases [FR Page 56646].  U.S. EPA is requesting information on where in the source category, under what conditions, and how frequently pressure-assisted flares are used to control emissions in order to evaluate their use.

  • Recordkeeping and reporting:

    U.S. EPA is specifically seeking comment on whether records should be required to be submitted directly to the permitting agency rather than just maintaining the records onsite or at the nearest field office [FR Page 56616].

  • Source Aggregation:

    There are two proposed definitions of “adjacent.”  The first definition reflects current policy and is based solely on physical proximity of sources.  The second definition includes a distance criterion as well as consideration of functional interrelatedness (e.g., connected by pipeline or other means) which could lead to more aggregation of sources.

    • If you support the first definition based solely on physical proximity, U.S. EPA is seeking comments regarding what the separation distance should be and what should be used as a starting point when measuring this separation distance.  Is the currently proposed ¼ mile distance appropriate?

Need to get up to speed on these proposed actions quickly?  U.S. EPA provides many useful links on their website including a source applicability table, fact sheets, proposed requirement summaries, and instructions for submitting comments.  Contact JP Kleinle (jkleinle@all4inc.com) at (610) 933-5246 ext. 120 or Megan Stroup (mstroup@all4inc.com) at (610) 933-5246 ext. 140 to discuss content of this blog or any other oil and gas related topics.


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