Oil and natural gas producers are urging the US Environmental Protection Agency to give industry more options to comply with proposed greenhouse gas emissions reporting requirements that EPA will use to impose a methane fee mandated by the Inflation Reduction Act.
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EPA should find ways to make its August proposed rule "less prescriptive and therefore better poised to not just accommodate but encourage the use of rapidly evolving technologies to detect and minimize emissions," according to joint comments from oil and gas industry groups.
The comments were signed by the American Petroleum Institute, the American Exploration & Production Council, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, The Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.
EPA in August proposed a rule (EPA-HQ-OAR-2023-0234) that would expand greenhouse gas reporting requirements for the oil and gas producing sectors. The proposal aims to improve the data it collects so that the methane emissions fee mandated by the IRA will be based in empirical data.
The planned methane waste fee will be the subject of future EPA rulemakings. The IRA says EPA shall impose and collect a fee on methane waste emissions from owners or operators of facilities that report emissions of more than 25,000 mt of CO2e/year.
The reporting proposal would revise Subpart W of the EPA's GHG program to require reporting of emissions from additional sources of methane emissions, including nitrogen removal units, produced water tanks, mud degassing, crankcase venting and combustion slip.
The proposal would also collect data about super-emitter events to capture emissions not accounted for under the current rules. EPA sought input on the requirements and verification that should be required if third parties report super emitter events.
The proposal would also revise calculation methodologies to allow the use of direct measurement of emissions. And EPA is also proposing to disaggregate reporting from onshore gas and petroleum production down the well-pad and site level.
The industry groups urged EPA to expand the proposal to be more technology agnostic, according to Oct. 2 comments. Many companies have tested advanced methane detection and measurement surveys for sources like tanks, flares and compressors and they should be able to use this technology, the groups said.
The American Exportation and Production Council, or AXPC, said precluding the use of advanced measurement technologies is inconsistent with the IRA and could potentially make the final rule legally vulnerable. EPA should create a framework outside of the rulemaking process by which EPA can approve the use of advanced measurement technologies for reporting, AXPC said in individual comments dated Oct. 2 and posted by EPA on Oct. 4.
Advanced measurement technologies could include continuous monitoring systems, AXPC said. EPA should also allow use of more standard technologies like flyover, optical gas imaging source verification, SCADA data to empirically show the magnitude and duration of emissions events, AXPC said.
The joint industry groups also argued that the proposal to consider third-party release reports is beyond EPA's authority. "The Industry Trades are concerned that unqualified third-party reports developed by unqualified operators could unnecessarily increase the reporting burden while not leading to more accurate GHG reporting," the comments said.
EPA cannot legally or rationally separate the reporting proposal from the methane fee proposal, AXPC's comments said. "Respectfully, EPA must reboot its approach in that forthcoming proposal by merging the two rulemakings, abandoning the untenable position that these are two separate tasks Congress has given it," the groups said.