On December 8, 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee discussed new draft general permits designed to reduce methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations in the Commonwealth. The draft permits contain significant leak detection and repair provisions that would require operators to test certain equipment for methane leaks on a quarterly basis. If a leak is found, the operator would be required to begin attempts to repair the leak within five calendar days. The operator must complete all repairs within 15 calendar days unless a part must be ordered to complete the repair or the repair is infeasible to perform without a shutdown, blowdown, or shut-in.
Under the draft general permits released by PADEP, owners or operators of a well site or remote pigging station may track the percentage of leaking components and reduce the frequency of inspections to semi-annually if the percentage of leaking components is less than or equal to 2% in two consecutive quarterly inspections. If a semi-annual inspection finds that more than 2% of the components are leaking, quarterly inspections must resume.
The new draft permits are part of Governor Tom Wolf’s larger Methane Reduction Strategy, first announced in January 2016. According to PADEP, “reducing methane leaks from the oil and gas sector is one of the essential steps needed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the impacts of climate change.”