Feds Propose New Methane Rules for Industry

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Flaring from an oil well in northwestern New Mexico.

Laura Paskus/NMID

Flaring from an oil well in northwestern New Mexico.

 

This morning, the US Department of the Interior announced another new rule that will affect New Mexico’s public lands and its energy industry.

During a call with reporters, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider and US Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze said that the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will require the oil and gas industry to reduce the amount of methane that’s being emitted from wells on federal and tribal lands.

A greenhouse gas, methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

“The monetary and social costs of releasing natural gas into the atmosphere are clear, significant, and dangerous,” said Schneider, who noted that 375 billion cubic feet of natural gas – or enough to power more than 5 million households for a year—were lost to venting and flaring between 2009 and 2014.

Industry is not operating efficiently, she said, which affects local pollution and climate change—and also represents lost royalties.

The proposed rule would do three main things, according to Kornze:

  • Limit routine flaring from oil wells.
  • Require operators to modernize leak-detection technology and fix the leaks they find, and
  • No longer allow operators to vent methane directly into the atmosphere, except in limited circumstances.

The new measures would also clarify when operators owe royalties on flared gas—and give the BLM more flexibility in setting royalty rates.

In New Mexico, the BLM manages 13.5 million acres, which host thousands of oil and natural gas wells.

Now, the agency is seeking input from industry and citizens—and plans to finalize its rule by the end of the year.

To view FLIR, or Forward Looking Infrared, videos of emissions from flaring, venting, and leaks in New Mexico, click here.

And for the true energy nerds out there, it’s worth mentioning that the BLM in New Mexico recently  developed a new interactive map showing oil and gas leases in the state –and is currently seeking comment on oil operations and impacts to archaeological resources in the Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico.

 

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