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Ohio EPA Begins Process to Issue General Permits For Pipeline Compressor Stations

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) is moving forward with a process that would allow companies to apply for general permits for oil and natural gas midstream compressor stations.

Currently, such facilities must meet the state's air emission standards through lengthy case-by-case permit reviews. A general permit would fast track that process with the more efficient and timely process of a template that applies to common pieces of equipment at the facilities, the agency said.

Under the proposal, however, applicants would be required to meet more stringent standards in demonstrating that the equipment qualifies for a general permit. They would agree to meet predefined permit terms, including installation and operating requirements, monitoring, record-keeping and reporting. The general permits would require the installation of state-of-the-art equipment to better control air emissions. Operators would also be required to check new and modified equipment for any leaks on a quarterly basis and fix them if found.

OEPA spokesman James Lee told NGI’s Shale Daily the leak monitoring requirement would be conducted on a “step-down process.” If few leaks occur, operators could switch to semi-annual monitoring and then to annual. If any checks find significant components leaking, or more than 2%, then monitoring frequency would switch back to quarterly, he said.

Lee added that the approach is similar to one that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to significantly cut methane emissions by 2025 nationwide (see Shale Daily, Aug. 18, 2015).

In September 2015, the OEPA said it was considering allowing general permits for pipeline compressor stations, as it does for oil and gas well site operations (see Shale Daily,Sept. 2, 2015). The agency opened a pre-comment period last year and said on Thursday that it is now accepting public comments on the draft general permits.

While compressor stations help move natural gas through a pipeline, they also sometimes have equipment that removes natural gas liquids and water from the gas before it is pumped. The draft general permits would cover typical equipment including, but not limited to, natural gas-fired and diesel engines, dehydrators, flares and liquid storage tanks.

The move is the latest from the OEPA to update its oil- and gas- related policies. In April 2014, the agency issued a new policy that required producers to scan all well site equipment quarterly to check for leaks so they can be fixed if found (see Shale DailyApril 4, 2014). OEPA said it has had to step-up its enforcement of the natural gas industry with the rise of the Utica Shale.

Compressor stations continue to proliferate in the state. Numerous forecasts have identified 50 pipeline projects that are expected to add about 35 Bcf/d of takeaway capacity for the Utica and Marcellus regions by 2020. About 4 Bcf/d of capacity additions are expected this year alone.

Lee said it’s unclear when companies might be able to apply for the general permits for compressor stations, saying only that the public comment period ends May 18. 

OEPA is asking interested parties to review the draft general permits and supporting materials. Public comments should be submitted to Dana Thompson at dana.thompson@epa.ohio.gov

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