IG’s office recommends EPA begin regulating LDC methane emissions

The US Environmental Protection Agency, which does not regulate methane emissions from natural gas local distribution companies (LDC), should start working with the US Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to address the problem, EPA’s inspector general’s office said in a July 25 report.

Such pipeline leaks led to the loss of more than $192 million of gas during 2011, a cost that was passed on to consumers, in addition to their potential environmental impacts, according to Erica Hauck, a program manager in the EPA IG office’s Program Evaluation Office.

“Additionally, EPA has not partnered with [PHMSA], which regulates pipeline safety, to control methane leaks; nor has EPA developed a strategy to address barriers that inhibit the mitigation of methane leaks in the natural gas distribution sector,” she said.

EPA already has a voluntary program to address methane leaks across the gas industry, Natural Gas STAR, but its efforts have produced limited results from LDCs, Hauck said. “This is due largely to financial and policy barriers, including disincentives for [LDCs] to repair nonhazardous leaks,” she indicated.

Hauk said investigators also found that uncertainties in EPA’s emissions factors for the gas LDCs raise questions about the accuracy of reported methane emissions. “In our view, effective methane reduction strategies may be difficult to develop without better estimates of methane emissions for this sector,” she said.

In addition to recommending that EPA work with PHMSA to start addressing LDCs’ methane emission from both an environmental and a safety standpoint, the report said EPA should:

• Develop and implement a strategy to address the financial and policy barriers to repairing methane leaks from LDCs’ pipelines.

• Establish annual performance goals for reducing methane emissions from gas distribution pipelines through its voluntary programs, and report annually on the agency’s progress in meeting these goals.

• Annually assess whether performance goals are being met and, if not, determine whether changes are needed, including whether regulating LDC pipelines’ methane emissions would appropriate under the Clean Air Act.

• Review data from existing and ongoing studies to determine whether it can be used to verify and update existing emission factors. “If not, EPA should proactively identify opportunities to work with the research community to obtain the needed data,” Hauck said.

The American Gas Association, which represents LDCs in Washington, said in response to the report that a concerted effort by gas utilities to upgrade and modernize the nation’s local distribution pipeline network to enhance safety has also contributed significantly to a declining trend in emissions from the system.

AGA’s board also approved a set of voluntary measures on June 11—including pipe replacement, installation of low or no-bleed valves in place of high bleed pneumatic devices; enhancement of damage prevention programs; measures for reducing emissions during repair or replacement projects; directed inspection and maintenance programs; and pipeline repair and lining techniques—to help modernize distribution systems and reduce emissions, AGA said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

WAFWA: Aerial survey finds lesser prairie chicken population grew

07/06/2015 A recent range-wide aerial survey found the lesser prairie chicken population rose 25% from 2014 to 2015, the Western Association of Fish & Wil...

Buru awarded onshore Canning licenses

07/06/2015 Buru Energy Ltd., Perth, and Mitsubish Corp. have been granted two production licenses for Ungani oil field in the onshore Canning basin of Western...

Cenovus sells royalty business for $3.3 billion

07/06/2015 Cenovus Energy Inc., Calgary, inked an agreement to sell its wholly owned subsidiary Heritage Royalty LP to Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan for gros...

CERI: Energy, operational efficiencies possible in Canadian oil, gas

07/06/2015 Measures can be taken by operators in the expanding resource-intensive Canadian oil and gas sector to improve both energy efficiency and operationa...

AGL Energy to scale back upstream gas operations


Gas retailer AGL Energy Ltd., Sydney, says it will exit the oil business and massively scaling back its upstream gas operations.

Woodside lets contracts for Browse LNG project

07/06/2015 Woodside Petroleum Ltd. has let more contracts for the Browse floating LNG project offshore Western Australia. The contracts, awarded to a Technip-...

Macondo settlement seen ‘positive’ for BP

07/06/2015 BP Exploration & Production Inc.’s recent agreement to settle federal and state claims related to the 2010 Macondo blowout and spill improves t...

Court to EPA: Costs matter

07/06/2015 Oil and gas groups did not respond immediately when the US Supreme Court ruled on June 29 that the US Environmental Protection Agency acted unreaso...

The price of oil and OPEC-history repeating?

07/06/2015 The world oil market today is characterized by a standoff between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers a...
White Papers

Definitive Guide to Cybersecurity for the Oil & Gas Industry

In the Oil and Gas industry, there is no single adversary and no single threat to the information tech...

UAS Integration for Infrastructure: More than Just Flying

Oil and gas companies recognize the benefits that the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) c...

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

Better Data, Better Analytics, Better Decisions

When Tue, Oct 27, 2015

The Oil & Gas industry has large amounts of data stored in multiple systems which are purpose built for certain tasks. However, good decisions require insights based upon the data in all of these systems. These systems in turn do not talk to each other. So the process of analyzing data, gaining insights, and making decisions is a slow one and often a flawed one. Good decisions require accurate analytics and accurate analytics require superior/sustainable data quality and governance. This webinar focuses on:

  • The importance of data quality and governance
  • How technological advances are making data quality and governance sustainable in order to get the accurate analytics to make solid decisions.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Seven Lakes Technologies and Noah Consulting.


Operating a Sustainable Oil & Gas Supply Chain in North America

When Tue, Oct 20, 2015

Short lead times and unpredictable conditions in the Oil & Gas industry can create costly challenges in supply chains. By implementing a LEAN culture of continuous improvement you can eliminate waste, increase productivity and gain end-to-end visibility leading to a sustainable and well-oiled supply chain.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Ryder System, Inc.


On Demand

Leveraging technology to improve safety & reliability

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

Attend this informative webinar to learn more about how to leverage technology to meet the new OSHA standards and protect your employees from the hazards of arc flash explosions.


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!


Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected