The Department of the Interior is taking action to reduce methane releases on public and tribal lands

Date: Monday 28 November 2022
Contact: [email protected]

WASHINGTON – The Department of the Interior today announced a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule proposal to address natural gas wastage in the production of oil and gas on federal and tribal lands. The proposed rule would earn the American public an additional $39.8 million a year in royalties and prevent billions of cubic feet of gas from being wasted through venting, flaring and leaks, thereby increasing efficiency.

“The Biden-Harris administration has taken unprecedented action to combat methane emissions and support a clean energy economy — this proposed rule will bring our regulations into line with technological advances that industry has seen in the decades since BLM regulations were first introduced. scored rules. while providing taxpayers with a fair return,” he said Secretary Deb Haaland.

Venting and flaring activities from production on public lands have increased significantly over several decades. Between 2010 and 2020, total venting and flaring operations reported by federal and Indian onshore lessees averaged about 44.2 billion cubic feet per year, enough to power about 675,000 homes. This contrasts with an average loss of 11 billion cubic feet per year between 1990 and 2000.

“No one likes wasting natural resources from our public lands. This draft rule is a sensible, environmentally responsible solution as we address the harm caused by wasted natural gas. It puts the American taxpayer first and ensures producers pay reasonable royalties,” he said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “We look forward to hearing from the public on this proposal.”

The proposed rule will protect communities while delivering significant economic benefits through increased recovery of used gas. It would modernize requirements that are outdated and unsuitable for current technology and operations, including requiring that State and Indian oil and gas lease operators take reasonable steps to avoid wasting natural gas. If implemented, the proposed rule would also ensure that when federal or Indian gas is wasted through excessive venting or flaring, the public and Indian mineral owners are compensated through royalties.

The proposed rule responds to a series of reports from the US Government Accountability Office highlighting the potential revenue losses due to BLM’s outdated regulations. Several states, including Colorado, Wyoming, Pennsylvania and New Mexico, as well as the US Environmental Protection Agency have taken steps to limit vents, flaring and/or leaks at oil and gas operations.

Key elements of the proposed rule include:

  • Technology Upgrades: The rule would require the use of “low vent” pneumatic equipment as well as vapor recovery for oil storage tanks where economically feasible. These requirements would reduce natural gas losses from pneumatic equipment and storage tanks on federal and Indian leases.
  • Leak detection plans: The rule would require operators to maintain a Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) program for their operations on federal and Indian leases.
  • Waste Minimization Plans: Requires applicants to develop waste minimization plans that demonstrate the capacity of the available pipeline infrastructure to accommodate anticipated associated gas production. The BLM may delay or ultimately deny execution of a drilling permit to avoid excessive associated gas flaring.
  • Monthly Flaring Limits: Sets time and volume limits for toll-free flaring. Importantly, this includes a monthly volume cap for royalty-free flaring due to pipeline capacity constraints – the primary cause of flaring from federal and Indian leases.

Flaring is the burning of excess natural gas at a well. Venting is the direct release of natural gas into the atmosphere. While some level of venting and flaring can be expected during oil and gas exploration and production, venting and flaring can be minimized if operators take reasonable precautions to avoid waste.

The proposed rule will be published in federal register in the coming days. The draft environmental impact assessment and other supporting documents will be available on Public comments will be accepted through for 60 days after the rule is posted.