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API: Proposed EPA Emission Rules Will Reduce Shale Gas Drilling

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API: Proposed EPA Emission Rules Will Reduce Shale Gas Drilling

Proposed regulations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce air emissions from hydraulic fracturing operations would drastically reduce shale gas drilling by 31 percent to 52 percent, or 12,700 to 21,400 wells, over the 2012 to 2015 time period, according to a study by the American Petroleum Institute (API).

The API study also found that:

  • 5.8 to 7.0 quadrillion Btu (Quads) of otherwise economic unconventional natural gas would not be developed and produced by 2015, a 9 percent to 11 percent reduction
  • 1.8 billion barrels of otherwise economic unconventional liquids would not be developed and produced by 2015, a 21 percent to 37 percent reduction
  • federal royalties of $7 billion to $8.5 billion that would otherwise be collected would not be paid in the first four years after the requirements go into effect
  • state revenues from severance taxes amounting to $1.9 billion to $2.3 billion would be delayed beyond the first four years after the requirements go into effect

The study, conducted for API by Advanced Resources International, examined the potential impact of the requirements for use of reduced emissions completions (REC) equipment on hydraulically fractured wells, including potential revenue from methane, cost impact and delays in unconventional resource development.

Two scenarios were used to address the use-rate of REC equipment for the study – the first estimated it would take three to four years for REC equipment to become available to keep pace with unconventional drilling activity, while the second estimated it would take six to seven years equipment to become available to allow the pace and level of unconventional drilling that would otherwise occur.

Under both scenarios, a significant slowdown in unconventional resource development would occur. The analysis did not estimate lost jobs associated with reduced drilling, oil and gas supply services and indirect employment.

EPA in July 2011 proposed a number of regulatory requirements to reduce air emission from the oil and gas industry. These proposals include reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) through the use of RECs, which simultaneously reduce VOC and methane emissions. When gas cannot be collected during well completion operations, emissions would be reduced through pit flaring, unless it is a safety hazard.

EPA's proposed rule, expected to take effect sometime next month, would impose REC requirements on most unconventional gas wells. The REC requirements would not apply to exploratory wells or delineation wells, which generally are not near a gas sales line. Equipment required to conduct RECs may include tankage, special gas-liquids and separate traps and gas dehydration.

A number of states now require the use of RECs, and a number of companies are already using this process, even where not required by states, according to ARI's report. EPA estimates that 3,000 to 4,000 of the 25,000 new and modified fractured gas wells completed each year currently employ RECs.

According to the ARI report, the cost assumptions used by the EPA are unrealistically low, and the impacts also are underestimated. API on Nov. 30 commented on the proposed rule, saying that equipment required to conduct REC would not be available in time to comply with the current final rule schedule.

"We believe it will take years to manufacture sufficient specialized equipment and adequately train operators how to safely conduct these operations." API also noted that the equipment is fairly specialized, the number of shops licensed to make the equipment is limited, and some components have long lead time.

Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs with API, told reporters in a conference call on Thursday that the organization was seeking to work with EPA to develop standards to reduce air emissions that would be beneficial for both the environment and U.S. consumers.

"We're cautious of what the EPA is doing because we believe it runs counter to the adminstration's commitment to produce gas," said Feldman. "We hope that they will make modifications to the final rule that will allow all of us to produce gas efficiently and safely without affecting the marketplace."

The issue of methane emissions from shale gas wells has been the subject of discussion and studies in the past year by the EPA, Cornell University and America's Natural Gas Alliance, an energy industry association.

IHS-CERA: EPA Methodology for Methane Emissions Overstated

EPA's current methodology for estimating gas field methane emissions is not based on methane emitted during well completions, but instead on a data sample of methane capture during well completions, according to a 2011 IHS CERA report.

The assumptions underlying EPA's methodology do not reflect current industry practices.

"As a result, its estimates of methane emissions are dramatically overstate and it would be unwise to use them as a basis for policymaking," IHS CERA noted in the report, adding that the Cornell study conducted on methane emissions in 2011 also makes similar errors.

If methane emissions were as high as EPA and the Cornell study assume, extremely hazardous conditions would be created at the well site. "Such conditions would not be permitted by industry or regulators," IHS CERA noted.

The regulations proposed by EPA are already standard industry practice and are unlikely to significantly reduce upstream greenhouse gas emissions.

"However, measured emissions could be significantly lower than EPA-inflated estimates," IHS CERA noted, adding that the greatest benefit of the proposed regulations is likely to be better document of actual greenhouse gas emissions from upstream gas development.



Karen Boman has more than 10 years of experience covering the upstream oil and gas sector. Email Karen at kboman@rigzone.com.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Post a Comment Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.
South Louisiana | Mar. 21, 2012
As an HSE Professional one would think I would side with the EPA here. I simply cannot. This country produces oil and gas more safely, efficiently, and with a better sense of environmental stewardship than anywhere else in the world. The EPA is targeting the people and an industry that supports the people, and this overkill approach to regulatory standards is crippling us as it did with Obama's moratorium. Without thriving industries such as Oil and Gas E&P the EPA could not exist. We need to work together to provide feasible solutions to environmental issues, and to take into account that the oil and gas we produce is essential to economic development. Reducing our dependance on foreign energy depends on it.

West Houston | Mar. 17, 2012
It becomes obvious that bho is strangling the petroleum industry when he knows that there is no alternative. You see obvious conclusion. For those of you living in "swing" states, please explain to the democrats. Logic is a tough sell to them, I know. But give it a try - at the very least you might convince them to stay home in November. Im in Texas, preachin to the choir.

joey schwab | Mar. 16, 2012
Drill baby drill. And get oboma out of office

Glenn Koons | Mar. 16, 2012
Of course, another reg to stop, erase, obliterate our own domestic energy resources and supplies. Hey, why not? Just allow OPEC, the Islamofascists, Venz. and even allies like Brazil, India, Mexico outdrill us, outperform us in creating private sector jobs getting our own energy supplies. The Obama tyranny has already destroyed the coal industry. Will kill nuclear energy. And now is hell bent to kill gas, oil and shale because of whacked out socialist enviro Dems that want to punish American ingenuity and ....of course, keep the pristine world of utopia for the snail darter, the spotted owl and the moose. In Nov., all of this nonsense has to stop with un-electing as many of these anti-free enterprise Dems up for election.

Christa Linsteadt | Mar. 16, 2012
This will force our country into being more and more dependent on foreign oil. We need to keep drilling here locally in the U.S. and use our own resources and not have to be so dependent and forced to buy from other countries and have to abide by their rules and regulations. This is why we do not need the government and the EPA to have the ultimate decision on whether or not we drill and use our own resources. I say get rid of the EPA and the government. Our country would be much better off.

| Mar. 16, 2012
Tell the "EPA" take a hike and keep there!!!! NOSE out of the oil and gas drilling businees it has been fine for the last 80+ yrs dont mess with it now??? go stick your nose somewhere else!!

Bwillsie | Mar. 16, 2012
Every time I see a gas flare I just envision piles of hundred dollar bills burning. If it burns, its a potential energy source and thus potential $$$. There are numerous instances in other industries of people capturing waste streams profitably, why not do the same here? As for the EPA, they need to restrict their CO2 emissions by thinking more and talking less...

cpatton | Mar. 15, 2012
This is just another example of our government,getting in the way of progress in this country,and using clean air and whatever else they can come up with to back their claims,of what is good for the people.More B/S from a Government installed entity. The sooner we get rid of EPA,the better off we will be as a Healthy functioning nation once more. EPA is a joke and the sooner everyone admits it the better.

Richard Jackson | Mar. 15, 2012
Meanwhile Russia, the Middle East and most other significant oil producing countries just dump their waste onto mother earth while the EPA forces undue regulations (costs, maybe to save their jobs) so we have to buy the unchecked polluters of the world oil and gas. The USA is by far the cleanest producers in the world.



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