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PHMSA preparing gas storage rules; Pa. shale rules take effect

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PHMSA preparing gas storage rules; Pa. shale rules take effect

Undergroundnatural gas storage regulations will likely be rolled out in tiers, with the firstphase, coming before the end of the year, focused on existing industry bestpractices.

TheU.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration soon expects toadopt rules based on two American Petroleum Institute , 1170 and 1171,that deal with underground gas storage in depleted reservoirs and salt domes,PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez said recently.

Industryhas already signaled its supportfor those two recommended sets of guidelines.

Afterconsuming six years, a series of public meetings and the job of one secretaryof environmental protection, Pennsylvania's new unconventional drillingregulations finally took effect on Oct. 8.

Thenew regulations prohibit the storage of waste in pits at shale wells, callingfor waste to be stored in tanks with secondary impoundments. Drillers will alsohave to restore any tainted water to its original condition or better. The newrules, Chapter 78a of the Pennsylvania Code, presume that any watercontamination near a new well is the driller's fault but allow for pre-drillingwater tests to rebut that presumption.

Therule sets 100 feet as the general setback distance of a well from waterresources but requires notification of responsible state agencies if a well iswithin 200 feet of a public park or forest, as well as notification of a publicwater utility if it is within 1,000 feet of a utility's water extraction point.

Acoalition of environmental and aboriginal groups urged British Columbia PremierChristy Clark to reject KinderMorgan Inc.'s Trans Mountain expansion project as one of her fiveconditions of support would be impossible to meet.

UnderClark's conditions, the Trans Mountain pipeline should exhibit "world-leading,"or effective, oil spill response. However, the pipeline is designed totransport oil that contains diluted bitumen, which, when spilled in water, willsink to the bottom with no known way to clean it up, the groups said, citing astudy by the National Academy of Science.

TheU.S. EPA has agreed to reevaluate for the first time in more than 30 years howit assesses certain types of emissions from flaring at natural gas productionsites.

In aconsent decree filed Oct. 7, the EPA said it would by mid-2017 review theemissions factors it uses for determining volatile organic compound, or VOC,emissions from flares at natural gas production sites. The agency last setthese factors in 1985, according to the Environmental Integrity Project, whoselawsuit brought about the consent decree.

Thegroup expects the EPA will find that the emissions factors are far too low,Sparsh Khandeshi, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project, said in anOct. 7 interview. The EPA's notes on how the emissions factors were originallyderived show that the agency assumed levels of efficiency at the flares thatwere overly optimistic, Khandeshi said, and while the agency has revised theseassumptions in other areas, the EPA has not yet applied its betterunderstanding of flaring to VOC emissions at gas production sites.

TheNational Energy Board has approved with conditions a pipeline project proposedby TransCanada Corp.that would link natural gas shale formations in northeastern British Columbiawith the company's NOVA GasTransmission Ltd. gathering system in Alberta.

Theboard, known as the NEB, is recommending that Canada's federal governmentapprove the 88-kilometer pipeline and associated facilities with 24 conditionsrelating to environmental, social and safety matters. The NEB recommendationswill now go to the federal government, which has mandated that all approvalsare subject to further consultation with Indigenous peoples and toenvironmental review. The project is regulated by the federal governmentbecause it passes provincial boundaries.