The Environmental Protection Agency has released a final rule to reduce methane emissions, a particularly potent greenhouse gas, from the oil and natural gas industry in the United States.
The rulemaking will require oil and gas facilities to eliminate routine natural gas flaring produced by new oil wells, require monitoring of methane leaks at well sites and compressor stations, and establish standards requiring emissions reductions from high-emitting equipment. These changes are expected to prevent about 58 million tons of methane emissions from 2024 to 2038, achieving nearly an 80% reduction in methane emissions compared to the levels expected if the ruling had not been established.
The rule has been several years in the making and was announced by the U.S. at COP28.
The final rule also features a program that will involve third-party monitoring to detect methane releases described as “super emitters.” Super emitters are facilities, equipment, and other infrastructure found to release methane at especially high rates, and these locations are found to account for almost half of emissions from the oil and gas industry.
Beyond its heavy emissions, methane is also known to involve hazardous air pollutants that may cause asthma attacks, other respiratory problems, and increased cancer risk. The rule is expected to reduce the presence of these harmful organic compounds, protecting communities located near methane-heavy sites.
“As the world gathers to tackle the climate crisis, the U.S. now has the most protective methane pollution limits on the books,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. “EPA’s limits on oil and gas methane pollution are a vital win for the climate and public health, dramatically reducing warming pollution and providing vital clean air protections to millions of Americans. With other countries also zeroing in on methane as a key climate risk, it’s a signal to operators worldwide that clean-up time is here.”
Addressing Methane Considered Currently Viable, Affordable Strategy for Reducing Global Emissions
According to the International Energy Agency, about 40% of oil and gas emissions could be reduced at no net cost using existing technologies, simply by tackling methane emissions. Reducing methane emissions has been identified as a comparatively quick, cost-effective method for reducing overall oil and gas emissions through high operational standards, firm policies, and deployment of technology already available on the market.
As fossil fuel development continues in the near future, world leaders have pushed for urgent methane reductions. In November, the European Union reached a provisional agreement to reduce methane emissions from fossil fuels in Europe’s energy sector and international supply chains. Methane reduction is also expected to be a major topic of interest during COP28 discussions.
The EPA projects that the new methane rule will achieve net benefits of $97 billion to $98 billion between 2024 to 2038, or about $7.3 billion to $7.6 billion every year.