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EPA Launches New Methane Rules For Oil And Gas

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On Thursday, the U.S. EPA is set to unveil the final regulations on methane emissions from oil and gas wells, the first of its kind.

The rules were initially proposed last year, and they are part of the Obama administration’s efforts to address climate change. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, although CO2 is longer lasting.

The goal of the regulations is to slash methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 45 percent below 2012 levels within the next ten years. The regulations will require drillers to monitor and cut down on the methane that is emitted at the point of production, as well as methane that is emitted when it is put through a pipeline for transmission. More inspections of equipment will also result from the new rules. Related: OPEC Is Dead, What’s Next?

Importantly, the rules will only apply to newly drilled wells, not existing ones.

The rules come amid a lot of controversy surrounding the true extent of methane emissions in the energy sector. The industry says that methane emissions have been trending down for years, using EPA’s own data. But the EPA also recently revised its estimates upwards, which suggests that the oil and gas sector has been emitting a lot more methane than previously thought. “Data on oil and gas show that methane emissions from the sector are higher than previously estimated,” the EPA said in a press release in April. “The oil and gas sector is the largest emitting-sector for methane and accounts for a third of total U.S. methane emissions.”

The oil and gas industry disputes the numbers as well as the new regulations on methane.

By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

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