4 The record articles

U.S. EPA Proposes Amendments to 40 CFR Part 60, Subpart OOOOa

Posted: November 30th, 2018

Authors: Christine C. 

On September 11, 2018 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) forwarded proposed reconsideration amendments for 40 CFR Part 60, Subpart OOOOa (Standards of Performance for Crude Oil and Natural Gas Facilities for which Construction, Modification, or Reconstruction Commenced after September 18, 2015) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and approval.  The proposed amendments primarily relate to specific issues for which reconsideration of the June 3, 2016 rule was granted by U.S. EPA:

  • Fugitive emissions monitoring requirements at well sites and compressor stations.
  • Available exemptions for pneumatic pumps at well sites.
  • Certification requirements.
  • Application requirements for use of alternative means of emissions limitations (AMEL).

In addition, U.S. EPA is proposing clarifying amendments and implementation improvements with respect to the following:

  • Well completion flowback requirements (regarding the location of a separator, and the regulation of screenouts and coil tubing cleanouts).
  • The definitions of “capital expenditure” and “Certifying Official.”
  • Storage vessel maximum average daily throughput calculations.
  • Equipment leaks at onshore natural gas processing plants [where a new exemption for equipment in volatile organic compound (VOC) service less than 300 hours per year is being proposed].
  • Recordkeeping and reporting requirements (to streamline and reduce burden to the industry).

For the purpose of this article, we are focusing our attention on the specific issues for which U.S. EPA granted reconsideration.

Fugitive Emissions Monitoring Requirements

The current version of Subpart OOOOa requires owners and operators of well sites and compressor stations to develop and implement a fugitive emissions monitoring plan.  It requires monitoring on a semi-annual basis for well sites and on a quarterly basis for compressor stations, obligating such sites to repair any leaking components within 30 days of detection.

In response to petitions to reconsider these requirements, U.S. EPA is proposing to reduce the frequency of required monitoring at well sites and compressor stations.  In the case of well sites, U.S. EPA is proposing provisions that would allow operators to discontinue fugitive emissions monitoring altogether once all major production and processing equipment is removed (i.e., once the site contains only wellheads).  Prior to that scenario, reduced monitoring is proposed as follows:

  • Biennial monitoring for low production well sites (i.e., well sites with a combined oil and natural gas production of less than 15 barrels of oil equivalent per day, averaged over the first 30 days of production).
  • Annual monitoring for non-low production well sites.

U.S. EPA is proposing either semi-annual or annual monitoring for compressor stations (where U.S. EPA is specifically seeking comment and supporting information to determine which proposed frequency is most appropriate).

Regarding leak repair requirements, U.S. EPA is proposing a relaxation of the current requirements.  If finalized as proposed, a first attempt at repair would be required to be made within 30 days of leak detection and completion of repairs would be required within 60 days of leak detection.

To increase alignment with existing State programs, U.S. EPA is proposing to allow compliance with certain existing State requirements (e.g., monitoring, leak repair, and recordkeeping requirements) as an alternative to meeting specific Federal fugitive emissions monitoring requirements for well sites and/or compressor stations.  If finalized as proposed, owners and operators would be allowed to base fugitive emissions monitoring and repair plans on requirements from certain states, such as California, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah, in lieu of the requirements in Subpart OOOOa.  The fugitive emissions monitoring requirements of these six states are at least equivalent to, or more stringent than, the fugitive emissions monitoring requirements included in the proposed Federal rule.

U.S. EPA is soliciting comment on the monitoring frequencies discussed above, as well as whether the current rule 60-day deadline for conducting initial fugitive emissions monitoring surveys for well sites and compressor stations should be extended to allow additional time to install equipment.

Pneumatic Pumps

Subpart OOOOa currently provides an exemption from the requirement to route methane and VOC emissions from pneumatic pumps located at “non-greenfield” (i.e., existing) well sites to an existing control device or process on-site.  The exemption currently applies to “non-greenfield” well sites due to the understood technical infeasibility of installing such controls at an existing site.  “Greenfield” (i.e., new) sites, however, are not currently eligible for this exemption based on the assumption that the technical infeasibility of routing emissions could be addressed in advance of developing a new well site, thereby making it technically feasible to install such controls at new sites.

In response to receiving petitions for reconsideration on this issue, U.S. EPA is proposing to expand the technical infeasibility provision to include both new (“greenfield”) and existing (“non-greenfield”) well sites.  U.S. EPA is soliciting comment on circumstances that would make it technically infeasible to control pneumatic pump emissions at new (“greenfield”) well sites.

Certification Requirements

Subpart OOOOa currently requires that a Professional Engineer certify when it is technically infeasible to route methane and VOC emissions from pneumatic pumps to an existing control or process, and when the design and capacity of a closed vent system is sufficient to route emissions to a control device from affected facilities.  In response to petitions for reconsideration on these certification requirements, U.S. EPA is proposing to expand the certification requirements to allow in-house engineers with appropriate expertise to also make the required certifications.

Alternative Means of Emissions Limitations

Subpart OOOOa currently includes provisions for an owner or operator to apply for an alternative means of emissions limitations (AMEL) if they wish to use alternative work practices to accomplish emissions reductions that are equal to or greater than emissions reductions associated with a work practice specified in Subpart OOOOa.  In response to receiving petitions on these provisions, U.S. EPA is proposing to streamline the process by which AMELs are requested, by allowing individual AMEL applications to request use of the same technology for multiple sites.  If finalized as proposed, AMEL applicants would also be allowed to work with manufacturers, vendors, or trade associations to apply for an AMEL that incorporates the use of emerging technologies.  Finally, AMEL applicants would be allowed to supplement field data with test data, modeling analyses, and other documentation as long as seasonality is addressed.

The proposed amendments were published in the Federal Register on October 15, 2018. U.S. EPA is accepting comments for a period of 60 days thereafter (i.e., comments are due by December 17, 2018).  Interested parties may use one of the methods below to submit written comments:

  • Online: regulations.gov, search for the Docket ID EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0483, click on “Comment Now!”
  • E-mail: a-and-r-Docket@epa.gov, Attention Docket ID EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0483.
  • Fax: (202) 566-9744, Attention Docket ID. No. EPAHQ-OAR-2017-0483.
  • Mail: Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Docket Center (EPA/DC), Mail Code 28221T, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0483, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20460.

If you have questions about how these actions could affect your operations, what your next steps should be, or if you need assistance in the preparation of comments, please reach out to me at (610) 933-5246 x155, or at cchinofsky@all4inc.com.

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