The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule that mandates regular inspections at all oil drilling sites to monitor their methane emissions, including those that emit less than three tons of methane a year, as reported by Bloomberg on November 11. In 2021, the EPA set out a rule that ordered oil and gas operators to monitor 300,000 of the country’s largest well sites quarterly to detect and fix leaks, while the new rule would require monitoring of all the country’s around 1m well sites. The EPA will also create a program to detect the biggest methane-emitting sites using government data or remote technology so that operators can repair them faster. The new rule is expected to be finalized by the end of 2023.
As a potent greenhouse gas, methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere. The International Energy Agency (IEA) revealed that global methane emissions from the energy sector are about 70% higher than the amount national governments have officially reported and called for enhanced supervision and stricter standards on methane emissions. The oil and gas industry has urged the EPA to exempt low-producing wells from monitoring work as frequent detection would be “inefficient and costly”. However, studies showed that more than half of the methane emitted from US drilling sites comes from wells with daily output of fewer than 15 barrels. The EPA expects the new proposal to reduce methane from covered sources by 87% below 2005 levels.