Addressing Oil & Gas Environmental Regulatory Requirements

Shale Oil Storage and Air Emissions - A Moving Target

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that 2018 crude oil production could average 9.9 million barrels of oil per day- surpassing the previous high of 9.6 million barrels set in 1970.1 Much of this increased production is from shale plays, where crude oils tend to be lighter and have higher vapor pressure than conventional crude. Data compiled by EIA support this fact: API gravities in crude oil production in many oil producing states has steadily increased since 2015. Thanks to active shale plays such as the Niobrara, Eagle Ford and sweet spots within the Permian Basin, states with the largest increase in API gravities in that three-year timeframe were Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado.2

Agencies are looking closely at terminals and their emissions; many agencies are becoming increasingly aware that historical representations may no longer be truly representative. In order to maximize flexibility, taking a close look at assumptions and how emissions are calculated (e.g., particularly how True Vapor Pressure - TVP - and sulfur content is determined) can avoid costly delays or a loss of operational flexibility.

Join us for an upcoming event covering Terminals and emissions in your area.

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1  US Energy Information Administration; https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=33332
2  https://www.eia.gov/petroleum/production/

Permian Basin Activity on the Rise

While Trinity works throughout the US with all oil and gas operators, it goes without saying that the Permian remains a hot-spot of activity. The rig count in the Permian has increased more than 50% since this time last year (from 268 to more than 400!). With the increase in drilling comes an increase in infrastructure and the planning that goes with it. Don't let air permitting delay critical projects - be prepared by brushing up on air quality permitting requirements in both Texas and New Mexico.

Upcoming Events for Permian Operations

Environmental and Regulatory Compliance in 2018

2017 was an interesting year for anyone in the environmental compliance space. With the new Administration came  new approaches. While 2017 saw the walk back or delay of many regulations, one of the most impactful regulation for oil and gas - NSPS OOOOa - was not one of them. As of today, compliance requirements are on the books and time is marching on. While the rules may change sometime in the future, many compliance deadlines have passed with no telling how long any agency may extend a grace period for full compliance.

GHG Reporting Deadline: March 31, 2018

EPA's electronic greenhouse gas reporting tool, E-GGRT, is not yet open for 2017 reporting. However, EPA has released the 2017 forms and calculation tools; so, while you cannot yet submit reports, EPA has at least released useful tolls that will help you prepare for the mid-February opening of E-GGRT for submittals.

Some changes in 2017

Just as last year, onshore production forms will require well-by-well reporting, including reporting inactive and divested wells. While this isn't new for 2017 reports, keep in mind that it does increase the time it takes to complete the forms.

New for 2017, the EPA has included an option to report leaks using optical gas imaging (OGI) survey results performed as part of OOOOa compliance. While the form does not require operators to report their OOOOa survey findings, it is an option.

State of NSPS OOOOa

Despite EPA's efforts to walk back some of the OOOOa compliance requirements, they are in effect today, and LDAR surveys were required to be completed by June 3, 2017. Of course, the path this rule has taken in recent months has made it impossible for many operators to fully comply, and this fact will likely be taken into consideration should an enforcement issue arise. However, it will be important to show a good faith effort by moving forward with the intent to comply.

For many operators, the focus is now more about managing risk than about achieving 100% compliance. Each company's tolerance for risk of the potential for enforcement will be a consideration. However, affected companies should consider the following recommendations with respect to OOOOa compliance.

  1. Identify affected facilities. Keep in mind that this rule only impacts sources that commenced construction, modification or reconstruction after September 18, 2015. Consider EPA's definitions of "construction," "modification," and "reconstruction" to avoid surveying sites that are not subject (or missing sites that are).
  2. Develop the Monitoring Plan. The plan must be available, but only submitted upon request. The simple process of going through the development of this plan can help clarify the ins and outs of how to execute this program, even if working with a third-party vendor to conduct the surveys. It will also help specify expectations for the LDAR vendor. It can be updated once surveys begin based on lessons learned from the field.
  3. Communicate survey expectations and practices to potential vendors and/or internal resources. In order to get the most accurate bids from vendors (or the appropriate dedication of time and effort for internal resources), it is important to have an understanding of what sites are subject, and to have a clear expectation of exactly how and what your vendor (or internal resources) will be doing in order to perform the surveys.
  4. Be flexible . During the first few years of any rule or new requirement, everyone is learning. Embrace lessons learned, and focus on forward movement.
  5. Don't forget to report on or before October 31, 2018. All subject facilities could be included in the report as well as the facilities subject to OOOOa LDAR provisions.

Trinity can assist with OOOOa compliance in several areas.

  • LDAR Plan Training and Development. A one-day training session will educate staff on what goes into conducting surveys and how your company may need to modify existing programs to meet the requirements. This will help operators clearly understand the requirements, while also developing a monitoring plan that meets the requirements of the regulation.
  • OGI Survey Training and Support. Trinity has certified thermographers available to train internal or external resources on surveys and associated recordkeeping. We work with operators to understand the nuance of OGI surveys such as common vents that should not be monitored (or considered "leaking").
  • OOOOa Corporate Training. We can provide customized training for your team on the requirements of OOOOa and how it impacts your operations. These sessions can be held convenient to field offices or corporate operations.
  • OOOOa Annual Reporting Support. We can help to organize and gather data needed for annual reports that are due no later than October 31, 2018.

Oil & Gas Regulatory Roundup

NGL Extraction and RMP/PSM Impacts

As upstream producers work to innovate in a challenging downturn, some operators may be expanding into the business of natural gas processing or natural gas liquid (NGL) extraction. Natural gas processing facilities or facilities handling NGL can be subject to an array of requirements under the Risk Management Program (RMP) and process safety programs. Changes in upstream operations can impact any previous RMP applicability determinations, which may need to be revisited.

The 13th Global Congress on Process Safety, held in San Antonio, TX in March 2017 and sponsored by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), included several informative presentations and sharing of best practices to improve process safety programs such as RMP of Process Safety Management (PSM) throughout industry. Regardless of whether you're subject to the RMP or not, some key themes emerged that can be applied to any facility:

  • Beyond compliance: Process safety is integral to reliability and operational excellence leading to increased uptime and reduced cost.
  • Human factors: Training, clear and concise operating procedures, and thorough hazard analyses are still key to preventing incidents.
  • Technology: Innovative tools for managing "big data" can enhance asset integrity and avoid unplanned shutdowns.
  • Lessons learned: Case studies and learnings from past incidents are especially important for the new generation of engineers and operators.
  • Changing regulatory climate: The status of federal level PSM/RMP regulatory revisions may be uncertain, but states such as California are moving ahead with their own programs to enhance existing rules.

The congress on process safety reminds us that there's still much to be learned and opportunities to take advantage of best practices in this mature program.

If you are interested in learning more about these programs and their requirements, join Trinity Consultants for a 1.5 day training course covering the RMP and PSM requirements to be held in Boston on October 18-19, 2017. Click here for more information on this training opportunity.

EPA's Information Collection Request for Oil and Gas Sources - The Latest Updates

On September 23, 2016, EPA released the most recent draft Information Collection Request (ICR) for oil and gas operations, intended to provide EPA with data to develop standards for existing sources at oil and gas facilities. EPA has now released “a mailing list for each industry segment included in the ICR”of those expected to receive the Information Collection Request.  To develop the list, EPA mined information from greenhouse gas (GHG) reports, 2014 National Emissions Inventory (NEI) data, Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) reports, 2014 DrillingInfo data, Midwest Publishing online directories, and state agency permitting efforts.  EPA is asking operators to log into the mailing list and update their contact information, if necessary, so that the ICRs can quickly reach the intended party.  The mailing list can be accessed here: https://oilandgasicr.rti.org/

Operators will have a limited time frame to respond to these requests, and information gathered will drive future regulation development for existing oil and gas sources.  The ramifications of this ICR can be far reaching, and very impactful to the regulated community. 

The ICR has two parts:

An “operator survey” designed to obtain readily available information on the number and type of equipment at all onshore oil and gas production facilities in the US; and 

A “facility survey” to collect detailed information on emissions sources and emissions control devices or practices in use at facilities in the onshore production, gathering and boosting, processing, compression/ transmission, pipeline, natural gas storage, and LNG storage and import/export facilities. The more detailed survey will be sent to a representative sample of facilities rather than industry wide. 

Trinity can help several ways: 

  1. Providing as needed, on-call support to assist with the data collection and data entry efforts relating to both Part One and Part Two surveys; 
  2. Providing on-site assistance in the data collection and organization for Part One surveys; 
  3. Performing off-site work to complete the data collection process for Part One surveys; 
  4. Providing 'boots-on-the-ground' support to perform the required component counts for Part Two surveys;
  5. Performing or revising tank emission calculations for Part Two surveys;
  6. On-site data collection for operational details of pneumatics, dehydrators, separators, compressors, control devices, and other equipment for Part Two surveys; and
  7. Real-time analysis of reported data, and a thorough review to ensure all reported data is complete and representative. 

For more information on how Trinity can support your response to this ICR, please contact Georgette Reeves at (512) 349-5800, or by email at greeves@trinityconsultants.com. 

Sweeping Changes to Offshore Air Quality Regulations Proposed

On March 17, 2016, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) proposed a rule regulating air emissions from the offshore oil and gas production segment. The rule, in its pre-publication phase, is open for comments; those comments will be due no later than 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. 

This proposed rule would amend existing BOEM regulations related to air quality measurement, evaluation, and control with respect to oil, gas, and sulphur operations on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) of the United States (U.S.), in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico (GOM) and the area offshore the North Slope Borough of the State of Alaska, as part of the BOEM approval process for offshore oil and gas exploration and development plans, right-of-use and easement (RUE), pipeline rights-of-way (ROW), and lease term pipeline applications. In general, the proposed rules include:  

  • BACT and air dispersion modeling requirements for relevant criteria and major precursor air pollutants, and cross-referencing the standards for pollutants against EPA's requirements
  • Clarification of the state boundary for purposes of determining potential air quality impacts 
  • Requirements to aggregate emissions from multiple facilities owned or controlled by the same owner/ operator that are intended to be part of one unit or project; and 
  • Updates to calculation methodologies of emissions from support vessels.  

For more information regarding this important rulemaking, contact Rahul Pendse at rpendse@trinityconsultants.com or by phone at (225) 346-4003. 

Bureau of Land Management's Proposed Waste Prevention Rule

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing new regulations to reduce waste of natural gas from venting, flaring, and leaks during oil and natural gas production activities on onshore Federal and Indian leases. The regulations clarify when produced gas lost through venting, flaring, or leaks is subject to royalties and when oil and gas production used on site would be royalty-free. This proposal is the first time BLM has updated waste provisions in over 30 years.   Learn more...

More Regulatory Developments

  • In March, 2016, EPA sent finalized versions of both NSPS OOOOa and the oil and gas “Source Aggregation Rule” to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) - its last stop before becoming codified in the Federal Register. Stay tuned for developments.
  • On April 15, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released five technical white papers covering what it considers to be potentially significant sources of emissions in the oil and gas industry.  The white papers focus on technical issues covering emissions and mitigation techniques for methane and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the upstream and midstream oil and gas sectors of the industry.  Learn more...
  • In 2012, EPA finalized a suite of NSPS and NESHAP rules regulating emissions from the oil and natural gas production, processing, and transmission segments.  EPA then revised those rules in late 2013.  Widely heralded as “fracking regulations,” these rules regulate much more than hydraulic fracturing at natural gas wellheads, oil and gas production, gas gathering, and natural gas processing facilities. Other covered emission sources include: 
    • Reciprocating and centrifugal compressors
    • Storage vessels
    • Pneumatic controllers
    • Fugitive equipment leaks at natural gas processing plants
    • Sweetening units at natural gas processing plants
    • Dehydration units   
    Trinity has developed NSPS OOOO and NESHAP Subparts HH and HHH courses that have been successfully delivered to students across the country.  Trinity has also helped several oil and gas clients navigate the complex rules to ensure compliance.  
  • With a rule that became effective in 2011, EPA established major, synthetic minor, and minor source registration and permitting requirements in Indian country. Registration for existing minor sources was required by March 1, 2013. Up to September 2, 2014, new or modified minor sources must also be registered. After September 2, 2014, new or modified minor sources must be permitted. Even the registration process requires potential and actual emission estimates. After August 30, 2011, new or modified major sources and synthetic minor sources must be permitted prior to construction.
  • On September 28, 2012, the oil and natural gas industry began reporting greenhouse gases (GHGs) for the first time through EPA's mandatory GHG reporting rule (40 CFR 98, Subpart W). Trinity has been assisting oil and natural gas operators with quantification and calculation of GHGs from the required sources identified in the rule, and has oil and gas regulatory experts on-hand to assist your facility with meeting the September 28, 2012 deadline.

Trinity is a unique consulting firm that has the oil and gas operational knowledge and air quality experience needed to fully support our operations. -  John Satterfield, Director of Environmental, Access Midstream  

Upstream: Oil and Natural Gas Production

Trinity operates offices in or near every major oil and natural gas production basin throughout the United States. From shale plays to conventional oil and natural gas production, Trinity has a wealth of experience in this industry and is deeply familiar with the unique challenges faced by this industry in terms of air quality and other environmental compliance matters. Widespread geographic operations, dynamic regulations, and increased public scrutiny are all factors in the permitting and compliance realm for this industry; Trinity can assist your operations with navigating the process in a way that maximizes flexibility while enhancing compliance.

Midstream: Natural Gas Boosting and Processing

Trinity works with midstream operators throughout the U.S. to meet their permitting and regulatory needs. From natural gas boosting through natural gas processing, Trinity assists operators with regulatory compliance, compliance auditing, permitting and air dispersion modeling for natural gas boosting and processing operations.

Regulatory Impact Support

With the air quality rules constantly evolving, small-, mid- and even large-size operators are in need of additional support when reviewing the regulations and evaluating the potential impact these regulations may have on their operations. Trinity can provide your organization with additional horsepower, technical expertise, and industry-wide context while reviewing these regulations and their impact on your facilities. 

For instance, air quality permitting thresholds and requirements for oil and gas operations can differ substantially from state to state.  Trinity's wealth of experience in the oil and gas producing states uniquely positions us to help clients strategically plan around those differences.  Trinity recently presented a breakout session at the Oil and Gas Environmental Conference where oil and gas state air permitting requirements were compared and contrasted. 

Trinity's breadth of expertise for oil and gas clients extends beyond air quality.  Trinity's capabilities include oil and gas safety, behavior-based safety, SPCC applicability through an objective means, SPCC plans, SWPPP, waste management consulting, and other environmental requirements.

Compliance Auditing

Trinity is assisting a variety of operators throughout the industry by performing air quality compliance auditing for their facilities. From gas plants to production well pads, transmission sites, etc., Trinity can review sites with a knowledgeable eye, and provide maximum value for on-site visits, and identify and document potential areas of exposure and liability so that problem areas can be resolved prior to an inspection. 

Many companies utilize a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) to gain an understanding of potential environmental contamination liabilities prior to property transfer.  Trinity's compliance auditing capabilities reach much deeper than a typical Phase I ESA to help clients also understand potential compliance liabilities associated with a property transfer.

EMIS Selection, Implementation, Support, and Recovery

Many oil and natural gas operators are implementing electronic solutions to manage compliance (EH&S management information systems, or EMIS).  The biggest challenge can be selecting a system that works for your operations. Trinity can facilitate an unbiased on-site meeting and gap analysis prior to meeting with software vendors so that you know the questions to ask, the tricks of the trade, and potential pitfalls. 

If your company has already selected and/or purchased a system, Trinity can assist with EMIS implementation, validate calculations and data inputs, and (in some cases) even provide lifeline support when an EMIS implementation is on the brink of collapse. Trinity has worked with a wide variety of EMIS providers, and knows the ins and outs of the software products as well as the critical stress points of an EMIS implementation.   

For assistance, contact your nearest Trinity office at (800) 229-6655 or Georgette Reeves at (512) 349-5800 x1004 or at greeves@trinityconsultants.com.