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What the Final Policy and Technical Amendments to 40 CFR Part 60, Subparts OOOO and OOOOa Mean for the Oil and Gas Industry

Posted: September 1st, 2020

Authors: Andrew B. 

On August 13, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) issued final policy and technical amendments to 40 CFR Part 60, Subparts OOOO (Standards of Performance for Crude Oil and Natural Gas Production, Transmission and Distribution for Which Construction, Modification or Reconstruction Commenced After August 23, 2011, and on or Before September 18, 2015) and OOOOa (Standards of Performance for Crude Oil and Natural Gas Facilities for which Construction, Modification, or Reconstruction Commenced after September 18, 2015).  ALL4 had previously discussed the proposed amendments to Subpart OOOOa in length in a separate article here: U.S. EPA Proposed Amendments to 40 CFR Part 60, Subpart OOOOa.  For this article, we focus on the finalized policy and technical amendments that are intended to provide clarity and simplify the compliance requirements for the affected oil and gas (O&G) industry.  The final rule, generally welcomed by the industry[1], reflects both technical and legal amendments.  The remainder of this article discusses specific rule revisions.

Removal of the Transmission and Storage Segment

In the final policy amendment, U.S. EPA determined that it had erred in earlier versions of the rule and that it was not appropriate to include the transmission and storage segment as one of the source categories in the 2012 and 2016 NSPS rules.  As a reminder, Subpart OOOOa regulated sources in the following industry segments:

  • Extraction and production
  • Natural gas processing
  • Natural gas transmission and storage
  • Natural gas distribution

As a result of the final amendments, all the rule requirements [e.g., methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) standards] have been rescinded from sources that fall under the transmission and storage segment in the O&G industry.  Typical sources found in the transmission and storage segment may include, but are not limited to, compressors, storage vessels, fugitive emissions components, and pneumatic controllers.  As of the effective date of the amended rules, which will go into effect when the final amendments are published in the Federal Register, compliance requirements [e.g., leak detection and repair (LDAR) surveys] at transmission stations will no longer apply.  However, some states have proposed or promulgated state specific O&G regulations that retain such requirements.

Removal of Methane Specific Requirements

The final policy amendment rescinds the methane emissions requirements but retains requirements for VOC for sources found in the production and processing segments. Although methane limits were removed in the final rule, U.S. EPA asserts that methane emissions will continue to be reduced in the production and processing segments because required controls that reduce VOC emissions also result in the reduction of methane emissions.

Fugitive Emissions Monitoring Revisions

The final rule also allows owners and operators to determine the best means for monitoring fugitive emissions components and relaxes the LDAR monitoring plan requirements (i.e., a site map with an outlined observation path is no longer required).  Additionally, the final version of Subpart OOOOa relaxes the fugitive emissions monitoring aspects as summarized in the table below:

The final amendments also clarified that natural gas processing plants must comply with equipment leaks standards no later than 180 days after initial startup of a new, modified, or reconstructed process unit and established that equipment that operates less than 300 hours per year is exempt from VOC monitoring requirements.

[1] Several major oil companies including ExxonMobil, Shell, Equinor, and Total are on record as not being entirely on board with the revisions citing a need to regulate methane directly, maintenance of a federal regulatory ‘floor’ that provides a consistent, flexible, predictable, and comprehensive policy framework, and the possibility of the revisions undermining actions that have already taken to address climate change risk.

State Programs and Alternative Means of Emissions Limitations and Use of Emerging Technology

The final technical amendments incorporate certain existing State programs (i.e., fugitive emissions monitoring, leak repair, and recordkeeping requirements) as an alternative to meeting Federal fugitive emissions monitoring requirements for individual well sites and/or compressor stations.  Owners and operators of well sites and/or compressor stations in California, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah (with exceptions) can comply with equivalent State specific programs to comply with Subpart OOOOa.

U.S. EPA also streamlined application requirements for using alternative means of emissions limitations (AMEL) and the use of emerging technology.  The final rule allows any person to apply for an AMEL (i.e., AMEL applicants can work with manufacturers, vendors, or trade associations) to incorporate the use of emerging technologies.

Pneumatic Pump Revisions

The final rule expands existing Subpart OOOOa exemptions to cover pneumatic pumps at any well site.  The original exemption only covered “non-greenfield” or existing well sites.  A professional engineer (P.E.) or an in-house engineer may certify that a well site is exempt from control requirements if it is determined that it is technically infeasible to route emissions from a pneumatic pump to a control device.  The final rule also allows owners and/or operators to demonstrate that closed vent systems associated with pneumatic pumps are operating with no detectable emissions by using the following practices:

  • An annual inspection using U.S. EPA Method 21
  • A monthly audio/visual/olfactory (AVO) inspection or;
  • Optical gas imaging (OGI) monitoring at the frequencies specified in Subpart OOOOa for fugitive emissions monitoring

Revisions to Certification Requirements

As discussed above, Subpart OOOOa now allows both P.E. and in-house engineers to make certifications pertaining to the technical infeasibility of routing methane and VOC emissions from pneumatic pumps to existing controls or processes.  It also allows both positions to certify that the design and capacity of a closed vent system is sufficient enough to route emissions to a control device from affected facilities.

Storage Tank Revisions

U.S. EPA clarified how to calculate potential VOC emissions for storage tanks to determine if Subpart OOOOa rules apply to potentially affected facilities.  The final rule also establishes criteria for calculating emissions from individual storage tanks that are part of a controlled tank battery.  If potential VOC emissions from an individual tank are greater than six tons per year (tpy), the tank is subject to Subpart OOOOa.  The six tpy limit also applies to tanks in a battery configuration (i.e., the combined emissions from the tank battery may not exceed six tpy). If VOC emissions from the tank battery configuration exceed six tpy then all the tanks in the battery are subject to Subpart OOOOa.

Pre-publication versions of the final rule can be found here: Actions and Notices about Oil and Natural Gas Air Pollution Standards.  If you have questions about how this finalized rule could affect your operations, or what your next steps should be, please reach out to me at (610) 933-5246 x175, or at abeaver@all4inc.com.

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