Heard this on WSKG-FM this morning:
Pennsylvania Air Pollution Standards For Compressor Stations To Become Stricter
AP | By By MICHAEL RUBINKAM Posted: 02/01/2013 11:34 am EST
Pennsylvania's natural gas compressor stations will have to meet tighter air pollution standards under a mandate from the state environmental agency.
The Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday its revised permit for compressor stations requires a 75- to 93-percent reduction in air emissions for the largest, most common types of engines used to power the facilities, which pressurize natural gas taken from the Marcellus Shale formation for movement along pipelines.
Environmental groups and some residents have expressed concern over air quality as more compressor stations are permitted and built. Residents who live downwind have complained of headaches, breathing trouble or other health problems they blame on air emissions from the compressors.
The new DEP permit imposes stricter limits on volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, nitrogen oxides and carbon emissions. The agency also announced it will accept public comment on a separate plan to reduce wellhead emissions.
"The steps we are taking now mean far lower emissions at well sites and more efficient compressor stations, resulting in cleaner air as development, production and transmission take place," DEP Secretary Michael Krancer said in a statement. "DEP's effective and robust oversight will deliver on the promise of cleaner air from the increased use of natural gas."
The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, said it supported the new standards. The revised permit will "further leverage technologies that continue to reduce our industry's footprint," said coalition president Kathryn Klaber.
Pennsylvania has more than 400 compressor stations, including older stations that handle natural gas produced from conventional wells.
DEP has been criticized by environmental groups over rules that govern when it treats compressor stations as individual, minor sources of pollution and when it groups them together with related natural gas facilities like wells and pipelines, for purposes of aggregating their air emissions. Major sources of pollution are subject to stricter controls.
State Rep. Jesse White, a Democrat from Washington County, said Thursday's announcement "totally ignores the real problem, which is that DEP refuses to aggregate emissions results. So if there are 10 compressors right next to one another, DEP monitors emissions of each one separately, even though the combined emissions of all 10 are coming in through your kitchen window."
Krancer has called the aggregation rules a "practical, common-sense and legally sound approach" used by many other oil- and gas-producing states.
DEP plans new pollution limits for well sites, compressor stations
State OKs gas site pollution standards
Changes on new permit for stations
State regulators have finalized new air pollution limits for natural gas compressor equipment and, for the first time, proposed standards to curb air emissions from well pad activities tied to the development of the Marcellus Shale, the Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday.
One change will affect the general permit used for many compressor station engines that push gas from wells into pipelines. The other will require stricter controls on leaks and pollution from wells and storage tanks if developers want to remain exempt from a site-by-site air quality approval process.
Taken together, the state expects the new permit and proposed exemption standards to stem pollution as shale gas well sites and compressor stations multiply.
"The steps we are taking now mean far lower emissions at well sites and more efficient compressor stations, resulting in cleaner air as development, production and transmission take place," DEP Secretary Michael Krancer said.
The new compressor station permit will require a sharp reduction in pollution from the current standard. Allowable levels of smog-forming nitrogen oxides, or "NOx," will be cut 75 percent in the most common, lean-burn compressor engines, and 90 percent for less common, rich-burn engines. Allowable emissions of volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide will also be reduced by between 87 and 93 percent.
But some of the cuts are not as steep as the ones proposed by the department in the draft permit it circulated in early 2012 and some specific limits for particulate matter and sulfur dioxide were dropped. Those changes were suggested by the industry in public comments submitted to the DEP last year.
DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said the volatile organic compounds limits were changed to make it possible for companies to meet the engine-specific standards continually while burning the gas they draw from the field.
General permits include standard limits that apply to similar facilities, allowing for a more streamlined approval process than an individual review. DEP said this general permit, called the GP-5, will give operators the ability to install more lower-emission engines at a compressor station because compliance will be measured by actual emissions instead of an assumed permit maximum that was used in the past.
The newly-proposed well site emissions limits are included in a draft revision to the state's list of sources that are exempt from certain air quality permitting requirements. The new standards would be stricter than federal rules released last year for controlling wellhead emissions, the DEP said.
If the changes are approved, shale well sites would qualify for the exemption only if companies monitor for gas leaks at wellheads and storage tanks 60 days after a well is completed and then annually, install strict emissions controls on tanks and meet limits on the amount of NOx and volatile organic compounds released from a well pad each year. Drillers will also be able to elect to apply for an air quality approval for the site instead.
Industry officials said they supported the measures on Thursday and touted the air quality benefits associated with using natural gas.
"The revised GP-5 permit aims to reduce emissions by 75 to 90 percent from compressor stations and will further leverage technologies that continue to reduce our industry's footprint," Marcellus Shale Coalition CEO Kathryn Klaber said. "We are squarely focused on building upon this positive progress and working to ensure that our operations, and the expanded use of natural gas, continue to enhance air quality."
Environmental groups have welcomed the efforts to reduce drilling-related air pollution while arguing that much stronger controls are technically possible and should be required. Efforts to reach the Clean Air Council for comment on Thursday evening were unsuccessful.
Details about both the final compressor engine general permit and the proposed well site emissions controls will be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on Saturday.
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DEP Announces Final Air Quality Permit for Natural Gas Operations, Proposes New Environmental Controls
HARRISBURG — The Department of Environmental Protection announced it has finalized revisions to a general permit for natural gas-fired engines and equipment at compressor stations, which help move gas from well sites into transmission pipelines. The revised general permit includes significantly lower allowable emission limits than the previous general permit, called GP-5.
DEP also announced it will accept public comment on a proposed plan approval and operating permit exemption for air emission sources at well drilling sites. Well sites would only be eligible for the exemption for the air quality plan approval process if the wells will meet emission control and monitoring criteria that are stricter than federal air quality rules for controlling wellhead emissions. The plan approval authorizes construction of facilities that emit certain types and amounts of pollutants.
"Pennsylvania has seen improved air quality over the past decade, and the United States led the world in greenhouse gas emission reductions over the past five years, in great part due to shale gas," DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. "This shift in the way we approach emissions will help us continue these trends.
"The steps we are taking now mean far lower emissions at well sites and more efficient compressor stations, resulting in cleaner air as development, production and transmission take place," he said. "DEP's effective and robust oversight will deliver on the promise of cleaner air from the increased use of natural gas."
The final revisions to GP-5, which were developed after considering public comment, impose emissions limits that are 75 to 90 percent stricter than current limits for the largest, most common types of engines used at compressor stations. Notably, the revised permit also affords operators the ability to install controls to achieve even lower emissions, allowing for the use of additional engines.
"Essentially, we are doing much more by setting these limits as a line the operator cannot cross. This is an improvement in air quality protection," Krancer said. "We are also determining compliance based on the facility's actual emissions, instead of equating the permit's limits with the facility's emissions, as was previously done."
Operators of facilities permitted by the GP-5 must demonstrate that their facilities continue to be minor sources as defined by the Clean Air Act, allowing for operational flexibility.
DEP is also proposing a revision to one section of its air quality permit exemption list that governs which types of facilities do need to obtain a plan approval prior to construction. The proposed exemption would apply to wellheads and their associated storage tanks.
The proposed exemption requires drillers to control emissions more stringently and conduct leak detection on the entire wellhead, which is more comprehensive than is currently required by federal air quality rules for oil and gas development. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released these rules, called New Source Performance Standards, in April 2012.
Operators of all newly drilled oil and gas wells would be required to decide between demonstrating eligibility for the exemption or applying for a plan approval after the proposed exemption regulations are finalized.
Formal notices announcing the final revised GP-5 and the proposed exemptions to air quality plan approval regulations will appear in the Feb. 2 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin. DEP will accept comments on the proposed changes until March 19.
GAS DRILLING-AIR EMISSIONS
Pa. moves to limit air emissions from gas industry
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) Pennsylvania environmental regulators say natural gas compressor stations will have to meet tighter air pollution standards.
The Department of Environmental Protection says it will mandate dramatically lower air emissions for the largest, most common types of engines used at compressor stations.
Compressor stations pressurize natural gas taken from the Marcellus Shale formation for movement along the pipeline system.
The agency also says it will accept public comment on a plan to reduce wellhead emissions.
DEP chief Michael Krancer says the steps will result in cleaner air.
DEP Proposes More Stringent Air Quality Rules for Nat Gas Operations
The Department of Environmental Protection released new air quality permit rules for natural gas production sites. DEP says the new emission limits are "75 to 90 percent stricter than current limits for the largest, most common types of engines used at compressor stations." Compressor stations help transport the gas along pipelines and in the process emit air pollutants.
The announcement comes on the same day a study was released by the Rand Corporation estimating the costs of air emissions from Marcellus Shale gas extraction. The report, "Estimation of regional air-quality damages from Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania," raised concerns about longterm impacts of gas extraction in the heavily drilled counties.
"…the resulting statewide damages were less than those estimated for each of the state's largest coal-based power plants. On the other hand, in counties where activities are concentrated, NOx emissions from all shale gas activities were 20–40 times higher than allowable for a single minor source, despite the fact that individual new gas industry facilities generally fall below the major source threshold for NOx."
The Rand Corporation study looked at four sources of regional air pollutants resulting from natural gas production. These include truck traffic, emissions from the well sites during drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the use of diesel engines, fugitive emissions from the wellhead, and emissions associated with the transport of gas via compressor stations. The study did not look at emissions from flares.
Researchers measured four pollutants related to gas drilling activity including volatile organic compounds, nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide and fine particulate matter. They estimate the air quality damages from 2011 cost between $7.2 million to $32 million.
Because natural gas production sites are not aggregated in the state, each compressor station is considered a single source. Environmentalists have opposed this. And the Rand report seems to back up the environmentalists' concerns, cautioning that current policy may not be adequate to curb emissions.
"It may be hard to limit these emissions through mechanisms such as permitting restrictions, which typically do not apply to mobile and minor stationary sources. Existing regulations may therefore not be well-suited for managing emissions from a substantial number of small-scale emitters. Proposals to aggregate industry sources should be carefully considered in terms of the appropriate unit of aggregation (e.g., by company, by geographic region) and any unintended consequences or perverse incentive they may create."
[For more on issues surrounding aggregation, see our piece on the battle between DEP and the Clean Air Council.]
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