By Stephen Wiegand


On April 17, 2012, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) for natural gas wells that are hydraulically fractured.


The rule aims to reduce levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released during well completion.  Prior to January 1, 2015, operators may use flaring to reduce such emissions.  Beginning January 1, 2015, however, operators must reduce emissions by installing equipment that captures natural gas during completion and makes it available for use or sale. 


The rule also establishes new notification and reporting requirements for well completions.  It requires that owners or operators of hydraulically fractured and refractured natural gas wells notify EPA by e-mail no later than two days before completion work begins.  Additionally, each year owners or operators must submit a report on their well completions that is certified by a senior company official attesting to the report’s truth, accuracy, and completeness.


The rule retains existing NESHAP standards for large glycol dehydrators at well sites and also sets new NESHAP standards for small glycol dehydrators (ones with an annual average natural gas throughput of less than 85,000 standard cubic meters per day, or actual annual average benzene emissions of less than 1 ton per year).  Small dehydrators must meet a unit-specific limit for emissions of BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene) that is based on the unit’s natural gas throughput and gas composition.


In addition to the new standards for hydraulically fractured wells, the rule also updated existing standards for natural gas processing plants, storage tanks, and transmission lines. 


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