EPA using flights to look for Permian gas leaks

  • : Crude oil, Emissions, Natural gas
  • 22/08/02

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it is using helicopter flights over the next two weeks to search for leaks of methane and other gasses from oil and gas facilities in the Permian basin.

Those helicopters are equipped with infrared cameras that can find hydrocarbon leaks from thousands of oil and gas operations in New Mexico and Texas. EPA said if it finds evidence of excessive leaks, it will follow up with affected facilities and consider potential enforcement actions such as fines, corrective actions and monitoring. The flights will continue through 15 August, EPA said.

The Permian basin produced nearly 5.4mn b/d of crude last month, equivalent to 45pc of domestic output, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Past aerial surveys have found that a small number of "super-emitters" are responsible for a disproportionate share of the region's emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas, and ozone-forming volatile organic compounds.

"The flyovers are vital to identifying which facilities are responsible for the bulk of these emissions and therefore where reductions are most urgently needed," EPA Region 6 administrator Earthea Nance said.

EPA said it previously used helicopter flyovers of the Permian basin to search for leaks in 2019. US oil and gas operators have been required to look for methane leaks and install low-emissions equipment at newly built facilities since mid-2016. The agency is in the process of developing methane rules for existing oil and gas facilities.

If the EPA finds non-compliance with its regulations, the agency often attempts to reach settlements that require emission cuts that are "more than is required by rule," law firm Beveridge & Diamond attorneys Madeleine Boyer and Laura LaValle wrote in an article today.

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