EPA has released rule changes that will require oil and gas drillers that use hydraulic fracturing to use new or improved processes and equipment in an attempt to reduce the level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other air pollutants emitted during the completion of new and modified hydraulically fractured wells. Since there are approximately 25,000 oil and gas wells that are "fracked" on land in the U.S. each year, the new rules portend a major impact on such operations.
The regulations cover four topics: a new source performance standard for VOCs; a new source performance standard for sulfur dioxide; an air toxics standard for oil and natural gas production; and, an air toxics standard for natural gas transmission and storage. The proposal would allegedly reduce smog-forming VOCs by nearly one-fourth across the oil and gas industry, including a nearly 95% reduction in VOCs emitted from new and modified hydraulically fractured gas wells. The reduction would be accomplished primarily through use of a "proven technology" to capture natural gas that currently escapes to the air. EPA believes that the gas would then be made available for sale, resulting in an overall net savings to the impacted industry while simultaneously reducing air pollution.
An EPA synopsis of the regulations can be found at http://www.epa.gov/airquality/oilandgas/pdfs/20110728factsheet.pdf.
Further information about the draft regulations and their impact can be found at http://www.epa.gov/airquality/oilandgas/index.html.
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