The US EPA has finalized air pollution standards related to oil and gas production, they announced in a press release April 18, 2012.
The updated standards are a result of input from the industry, public, public health groups and states. They include the first federal air rules for hydraulically fractured natural gas wells, and rules for emissions from storage tanks and other equipment.
The EPA estimates that the updated standards will save the industry $11 to $19 million annually.
Based on information collected from public comments, the updated standards establish a phase-in period to ensure that the necessary emissions-reduction technology is widely available.
Until January 2015, natural gas well operators must flare their emissions or use “green completions” technologies that are already used at many wells. In 2015, the EPA will require each new fractured well to use green completions. This will not require new federal permits.
Costs to implement the updated standards are reduced as they are achievable with cost-effective, widely-available technologies combined with processes already used by an estimated 50% of fractured natural gas wells across the US. The combination will not only reduce harmful emissions by 95%, but will allow operators to sell additional natural gas collected.
During the production of natural gas, escaping gas causes air pollution. The updated standards require that operators capture that gas, which the operators can sell to offset the cost of compliance. And, as approximately 13,000 wells are fractured or re-fractured each year, it is expected that reducing methane – the primary component of natural gas – will greatly benefit the environment.
It is the EPA’s goal that these standards will expand production of clean energy in the US while reducing negative impacts to public health.
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said, "By ensuring the capture of gases that were previously released to pollute our air and threaten our climate, these updated standards will not only protect our health, but also lead to more product for fuel suppliers to bring to market.
"They're an important step toward tapping future energy supplies without exposing American families and children to dangerous health threats in the air they breathe.”
For more information, check out the EPA Web site.