On November 13, 2014, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) finalized revisions to the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) for the petroleum and natural gas systems source category. 40 C.F.R. part 98, subpart W (subpart W). The final revisions also revise the general provisions (subpart A). The revisions include changes to:
- Calculation methods simplified or clarified
- Liquids unloading, completions and workovers, blowdown vents, flaring, gas distribution
- Optical gas imaging added to detect emissions from compressor stations
- Amendments to monitoring and data reporting requirements
- Additions to missing data procedures
- Best Available Monitoring Methods removed, with some transition time
- Reported data aligns more closely with monitored data
- Clarification of terms and definitions, particularly units of measurement
- Corrections to certain technical and editorial errors
USEPA describes the revisions as technical or clarifying in nature and made in response to feedback from stakeholders. USEPA claims the amendments do not create “significant additional burden” and “in some cases reduce the burden to reporters and regulators.” The rule also finalizes new subpart W confidentiality determinations for data elements required under the rule (designating what data may be considered “confidential business information”). The rules become effective on January 1, 2015.
On November 13, 2014, USEPA proposed to expand the scope of the GHGRP for facilities that conduct petroleum and natural gas activities. USEPA proposes to both amend subpart W regulations and add emission sources not previously included in subpart W.
This proposal adds new greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting requirements and proposes that none of the new data reporting elements are entitled to confidential protection. Amendments require owners and operators of petroleum and natural gas systems to report well identification numbers in order to match the data reported under the GHGRP with other data sources. USEPA also seeks comment on the feasibility of alternative monitoring methods (such as real-time, continuous emissions data) under the GHGRP to account for advances in technology. If finalized, the amended regulations would affect owners and operators of the following entities in the petroleum and natural gas system source category that directly emit GHGs: pipeline transportation of natural gas, natural gas distribution, crude petroleum and natural gas extraction and natural gas liquid extraction.
The proposal requires for the first time the reporting of GHG emissions from several emission sources that have not previously been included in subpart W. These emission sources include:
- Oil well completions and workovers with hydraulic fracturing. Currently Subpart W requires the reporting of GHG emissions from gas well completions and workovers, but not from oil well completions and workovers with hydraulic fracturing.
- Petroleum and natural gas gathering and boosting systems. These are systems that move petroleum and natural gas from the well to either larger gathering pipeline systems, natural gas processing plants, natural gas transmission pipelines, or natural gas distribution pipelines.
- Transmission pipeline blowdowns between compressor stations. Transmission pipeline blowdowns occur when a segment of pipeline is isolated from the rest of the line and the natural gas inside is purged through a blowdown vent stack.
EPA plans to publish final amendments before the end of 2015 and claims the final rules will become effective January 1, 2016. Facilities would therefore be required to follow the revised methods in subpart W, as amended, to calculate, monitor, and report emissions beginning January 1, 2016. According to USEPA, the rule was proposed in part to make progress towards President Obama’s stated goal of reducing methane emissions under the Climate Action Plan, a strategy announced in March 2014. Please contact any member of the Schiff Hardin Environmental Group with questions about the final or proposed rules.