In May, the EPA announced new methane emissions rules. These rules finalize standards to reduce methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and toxic air emissions and specifically address methane emissions from new and existing sources of oil and gas, including hydraulically fractured oil wells.
Methane is an important contributor to greenhouse gases which drive climate change and add harmful pollution to the environment from the activities of the oil and gas industries. The Obama administration has set a goal to reduce methane emissions from this sector by 40-45% from 2012 levels by the year 2025.
The key component of natural gas, methane has a global warming potential 25+ times greater than carbon dioxide. It is the second-most prevalent greenhouse gas in the US with almost 30% of the total coming from oil and natural gas production. The new rules are expected to reduce the equivalent of 11 million tons of carbon dioxide from the environment.
The new rules removed an exemption for low production wells and requires compressor station leak monitoring twice as often. These standards were driven by new scientific data showing that methane emissions are substantially higher than was previously observed. Data collection from the industry will become more rigorous, also.
Oil and gas industry groups are calling these new rules a step toward more rigorous regulation which will stifle innovation and discourage investment in new emission reduction technologies. It is expected that these standards could cost companies $530 million in 2025.
The American Petroleum Institute calls the rules unreasonable and a risk to the shale energy revolution, which they describe as a production technology that has actually lowered US carbon emissions. Their position statement indicates that natural gas from shale has already helped the world to reach 20-year low carbon emissions.