Federal and state air quality agencies are considering how to best estimate and measure the level of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from oil and natural gas facilities, and field testing in some western states may begin within a year to consider whether additional regulations are needed, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official said.
William Harnett, who directs EPA's air quality policy division, outlined federal and state efforts at the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) annual meeting in New Orleans.
Air regulators need better emissions estimates from oil and gas production, and they want to determine if producers comply with federal and state standards, particularly in nonattainment areas, said Harnett. In any case, he said, regulators want and need industry feedback to ensure accurate measurements.
"We will be asking industry how to gather the best data of the greatest use to all," Harnett told IOGCC members.
Developing models through tests would provide better emissions estimates, but regulators also want to determine if producers comply with federal and state air regulations, particularly in existing nonattainment areas under the National Ambient Air Quality Standard, he said.
Harnett noted that several Bureau of Land Management offices, including those in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Idaho, have requested accurate information on air emissions in production areas of their states to allow them to accurately assess possible environmental impacts from proposed oil and gas leasing.
The state test sites have not yet been determined, but Harnett said the regulators likely would conduct tests in production areas of Colorado, Wyoming or New Mexico. Initial funding, estimated at around $400,000, would be provided by EPA for the tests.
According to Harnett, the tests would involve bagging or tenting possible emissions sources. The emissions then would be measured over a period of days, and it would be similar to how emission testing is conducted at refineries and chemical plants. Most of the tests would be to measure VOC emissions leaking from equipment or at production sites; greenhouse gas emissions would not be initially tested.
EPA expects to complete a draft methodology once the tests are completed, and if there are proposed regulations, they would be open for public comment, Harnett said.
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