Ohio Ahead of the Curve in Preventing Fugitive Methane Emissions
Recent modifications to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s (OEPA) general permitting process have established Ohio’s regulatory system for oil and gas air emissions as among the most stringent in the country. The modifications – put into place by the Division of Air Pollution Control – focus heavily on the upstream side of shale development by reducing fugitive emissions from various points of production.
Ohio will now be one of three states to require quarterly monitoring using “Forward Looking Infra Red” (FLIR) cameras, or similar analyzers meeting U.S. EPA recommendations to detect emissions. These new modifications continue to keep Ohio at the forefront when regulating shale development across the United States.
These new rules also make Ohio the third state in the country to require monitoring of fugitive emissions from oil and gas production units. Colorado and Wyoming have put into place similar regulations. In Ohio, operators must now test and monitor for any fugitive emissions taking place onsite on a quarterly basis. From the updated rule:
“The permittee shall develop and implement a leak detection and repair program designed to monitor and repair leaks from ancillary equipment and compressors covered by this permit, including each pump, compressor, pressure relief device, connector, valve, flange, vent, cover, any bypass in the closed vent system, and each storage vessel.”
If a leak is detected, an operator’s first attempt at repair must be completed within five days. If the repair is unable to be made within the initial attempt, repairs must be completed within 30 days.
These new rules were heralded by environmental groups like the Environmental Defense Fund, who recognize Ohio’s strong work in developing the Utica Shale in a safe and responsible manner. Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp applauded Ohio’s leadership.
“This is just the latest example of leadership from the Kasich administration in minimizing risk around oil and gas development. It reflects a fast-growing recognition that, if we’re going to develop this resource, we have to do it right. It’s essential we maintain an unblinking vigilance in driving down harmful emissions.”
Many operators already use similar techniques in reducing fugitive emissions on a voluntary basis, since no operator wants to lose a valuable product. In fact, the U.S. EPA’s most recent Greenhouse Gas Inventory showed that methane emissions from natural gas systems fell 16.9 percent since 1990, with field production emissions falling more than 40 percent since 2006. This is a significant reduction considering natural gas production has increased by 26 percent since 2007.
To be clear, air emissions from oil and gas activity in the state have not created negative health impacts to the residents in Ohio prior to the implementation of this rule. In 2012, the OEPA conducted a study an air quality near a Utica Shale well and concluded “air quality data collected near a shale gas drilling well shows the air remains clean.”
In theory, these new fugitive methane regulations should quiet down activists in the state who unapologetically quote the oft-debunked Ingraffea/Howarth study – which incorrectly asserted high methane emissions from shale development. Unfortunately, most of those groups have been silent on these regulations, proving once again that the anti-fracking campaign is not about safe development; it’s about banning development, period.