EPA to Tighten Rules on Oil and Gas Production to Reduce Methane

Climate groups say cutting methane is the single fastest way to curb climate change.

November 03, 2021

Oil Drill

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The U.S. plans to strengthen regulations on oil and natural-gas production to reduce methane emissions, President Biden announced at the Glasgow climate summit, where world leaders pledged to drastically reduce methane, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Methane, a greenhouse gas, accounted for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2019. It is caused by drilling, livestock and landfills, and it traps roughly 85 times more heat than carbon dioxide.

Newly proposed U.S. methane rules have the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulating methane at existing wells nationwide for the first time. About a million new and existing wells would come under EPA regulation with stricter requirements for new wells.

The EPA would implement a “comprehensive monitoring program to require companies to find and fix leaks” across operations including wells, pipes and storage tanks. Oil well producers also could not vent off gas at oil wells under the proposed regulations. In 2030 alone, that would save $690 million worth of gas that might otherwise be wasted, the agency said.

It will cost the oil-and-gas industry $1.5 billion by 2026 to comply with the new EPA regulations, but that amount would drop to $1 billion by 2032, according to the EPA.

The regulation would cut methane emissions by 74% by 2030, compared with emissions from those sources in 2005. The agency said it aims to complete the regulations next year, following a 60-day public comment period and a review by other agencies that could lead to changes in the proposal.

The White House estimates that 30% of methane comes from the oil-and-gas industry. Shell, Exxon Mobil and BP have been in favor of federal regulation in the past due to pressure from investors concerned about climate change. The American Petroleum Institute said it supports expanding regulations to include older wells and facilities, but that it is still reviewing specifics. The Independent Petroleum Association of America previously raised concerns about the plan, saying rules that effectively require advanced technologies like optical leak-detection systems would be too costly and complicated for low-production oil and gas wells.

There has not been movement toward imposing regulations on the livestock industry, which contributes about a third of the methane emissions. When livestock and manure emissions are combined, the agriculture sector is the largest source of methane emission in the United States. As a result, agriculture has been a target of climate environmentalists, with some activists calling for reducing meat production and finding plant-based alternatives to beef or pork products. Beef has the biggest greenhouse gas footprint of any food type.

This month’s Climate Corner column in NACS Magazine discusses methane’s impact on the climate in depth and how it impacts our climate, as well as what the White House is doing about it.