The California Air Resources Board approved a new regulation aimed at methane leaks from oil and gas operations. The new rule is the most comprehensive of its kind in the country.
Methane, one of the powerful greenhouse gases called short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) and the main component of natural gas, has 72 times the impact on global warming as carbon dioxide. The new regulation is expected to reduce methane leaks from oil and gas operations in California by the equivalent of 1.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road for a year. Locating and repairing leaks in oil and gas systems will provide additional benefits in reducing smog-causing chemicals because the same leaks often release air toxins and volatile organic compounds, such as benzene.
California’s new air regulation requires quarterly monitoring of methane emissions from oil and gas wells, natural gas processing facilities, compressor stations and other equipment used in the processing and delivery of oil and natural gas. Some equipment will also be required to add vapor collection systems.
The new regulation adds to emergency regulations that were put in place by the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources after the methane leak in the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field. Those regulations require additional monitoring and testing at all underground natural gas storage facilities, making it easier to prevent well leaks.
Although the largest source of methane in California is livestock, the oil and gas industry is responsible for about 15% of the state’s methane emissions.
Adoption of the oil and gas rule is an important step toward implementing the Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy, which provides guidance for development and implementation of California’s overall effort to reduce these highly potent climate pollutants. SB 1383 (Lara, 2016) sets the target for statewide methane reductions of 40% below 2013 levels by 2030. The Board also adopted that plan yesterday (earlier post).