The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) has adopted new requirements aimed at reducing air pollution from the state's growing shale oil and gas development that will find operators targeting fugitive emission sources such as leaking valves and connectors.
Under the new policy, operators will be required to scan all well site equipment on a quarterly basis using infrared cameras or other hydrocarbon detection devices. Any leaks identified must be fixed within five days, and operators will be required to submit leak detection and repair reports to state regulators annually.
Although many oil and gas companies developing the nation's shale fields with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have been prepared for such regulatory steps before proposed federal standards take effect, Ohio is the latest major oil and gas producing state to adopt a policy focused on curbing the emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds.
Colorado and Wyoming have implemented similar policies (see Shale Daily, Feb. 24; October 4, 2013). Early last year, Pennsylvania made revisions to its general permit for compressor stations and finalized strict air quality criteria for unconventional operators, as well (see Shale Daily, Aug. 12, 2013).
The OEPA has also rolled out more stringent criteria that set forth the terms and conditions of a general permit for oil and gas well site operations. After a company demonstrates that it meet the standards, its application process is fast-tracked.
Ohio's latest move was hailed on Friday by environmental groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund. The OEPA's latest policies come as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) continues work on a package of draft rules that will establish the minimum enforceable standards for wastewater recycling, spill protections and well pad construction (see Shale Daily, Dec. 24, 2013).
Both the OEPA and ODNR have been forced to take a closer look at the state's oil and gas regulations as development continues to steadily increase. ODNR had issued 1,186 horizontal Utica Shale permits as of Friday, while 780 Utica wells have been drilled to date. Those numbers keep rising in addition to sustained operations among the state's legacy producers drilling vertical wells.