Final Rule for Oil and Natural Gas Operations

Last updated: 5 March 2024

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule that aims to sharply reduce emissions of methane and other harmful air pollution from oil and gas operations, including from existing sources nationwide. The rule aims to prevent an estimated 58 million tonnes of methane emissions from 2024 to 2038, an 80% reduction below the estimate emissions that would occur without the rule. Key provisions of the rule are listed below.
New Source Performance Standards 
The rule establishes standards for new sources to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) and volatile organic compounds for the crude oil and natural gas category, pursuant to the Clean Air Act, with the aim to reduce methane and smog-forming volatile organic compounds. The rule defines new sources as those constructed, reconstructed or modified after December 6, 2022; this means that the majority of sources will be classified as 'existing' and therefore required to comply with state-devised plans. The rule tightens equipment and process standards compared to previous rules through a number of measures.

  • All covered sources are required to implement leak detection and repair (LDAR) in accordance with the standard specified for each source subcategory. For most sites, these guidelines require quarterly or semiannual optical gas imaging (OGI) and/or auditory, visual and olfactory (AVO) surveys.
  • Routine flaring from new oil and gas wells will be phased out within a two-year period, with exemptions only for temporary situations beyond the owner/operators' control due to technical infeasibility or safety concerns.
  • Covers and closed vented systems (CVS) are subject to a "no identifiable emissions" limit, demonstrated through OGI and AVO inspections conducted at the same frequency as fugitive emissions monitoring. 
  • Process or pneumatic controllers are subject to a zero emission standard within one year of the final rule effective date, with special standards applicable to sites in Alaska that do not have access to electrical power. 
  • During gas well liquid unloading operations, owners and operators must employ best management practices to minimise or eliminate venting of emissions to the maximum extent possible or achieve a 95% emissions reduction by routing emissions to a control device via CVS.

State Regulation for Existing Sources
Pursuant to the Clean Air Act, the publication of this rule requires states to develop, submit and implement state plans to establish performance standards to limit GHG emissions from existing sources in the crude oil and natural gas category that are at least as stringent as the EPA rule standards for new sources. States are allotted two years to develop and submit their plans for reducing methane from existing sources and three years from the submission deadline to ensure compliance. Federally recognised Tribes have the opportunity, but not the obligation, to develop their own plans.
Super Emitter Program
This Program requires owners and operators to investigate and mitigate very large emissions events. The rule establishes the EPA as a central actor in receiving and verifying notifications from certified third parties before sending them to the appropriate owner or operator. The EPA will also take on the approval of monitoring technologies, the certification of notifiers, the delineation of timelines for notifications and responses and the publication of super emitter data on a timely basis.
Innovation in Methane Detection Technology
The rule expands options available to owners and operators for methane leak detection to include satellite monitoring, aerial surveys, and continuous monitors, allowing for early adoption of emerging technologies through a streamlined technology compliance pathway. 

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