Emission management

EPA Announces Final Rule on Oil and Gas Methane Emissions

The revisions to the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program aim to bring greater transparency and accountability for methane emissions from oil and natural gas facilities.

EPA Offices, Washington DC
Source: Skyhobo/Getty Images

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final rule to update methane-emissions reporting requirements for petroleum and natural gas systems under the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP).

The GHGRP requires reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) data and other relevant information from large GHG emission sources, fuel and industrial gas suppliers, and CO2 injection sites in the United States. Approximately 8,000 facilities are required to report their emissions annually, and the reported data are made available to the public in October of each year.

Under the GHGRP, owners or operators of facilities that contain petroleum and natural gas systems and emit 25,000 metric tons or more of GHGs per year (expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents) report GHG data to EPA. Owners or operators collect GHG data; calculate GHG emissions; and follow the specified procedures for quality assurance, missing data, recordkeeping, and reporting. Subpart W consists of emission sources in ten segments of the petroleum and natural gas industry.

The final revisions aim to ensure greater transparency and accountability for methane pollution from oil and natural gas facilities by improving the accuracy of annual emissions reporting from these operations.

The EPA’s latest action complements the Biden administration’s whole-of-government initiative to slash methane emissions from every sector of the economy under the US Methane Emissions Reduction Plan. In 2023 alone, the administration took nearly 100 actions, with coordination by the White House Methane Task Force, to bolster methane detection and reduce methane pollution from oil and gas operations, landfills, abandoned mines, agriculture, industry, and buildings.

The final rule updating the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program is a key component of the Inflation Reduction Act’s Methane Emissions Reduction Program. The administration is also mobilizing more than $1 billion in financial and technical assistance to accelerate the transition to no- and low-emitting oil and gas technologies as part of broad efforts to cut wasteful methane emissions.

“As we implement the historic climate programs under President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, EPA is applying the latest tools, cutting-edge technology, and expertise to track and measure methane emissions from the oil and gas industry,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Together, a combination of strong standards, good monitoring and reporting, and historic investments to cut methane pollution will ensure the US leads in the global transition to a clean energy economy.”

Recent studies reveal that actual emissions from petroleum and natural gas systems are much greater than what has historically been reported to the GHGRP. This rule addresses that gap, including by facilitating the use of satellite data to identify superemitters and quantify large emission events, requiring direct monitoring of key emission sources, and updating the methods for calculation.

The announcement builds on the EPA’s recently finalized Clean Air Act standards to sharply reduce methane and other harmful air pollutants from the oil and natural gas industry, promote the use of cutting-edge methane detection technologies, and deliver significant economic and public health benefits from methane emissions reductions. That rule established a Super-Emitter Program to help detect large leaks and releases, and the new reporting rule will require owners and operators to quantify and report the emissions detected through that program to help close the gap between observed methane emissions and reported emissions.

With this rule, the EPA for the first time is allowing for the use of advanced technologies such as satellites to help quantify emissions in Subpart W. In addition, the EPA is finalizing new methods that allow for the use of empirical data for quantifying emissions, including options added in response to public comments on the proposed rule. The final rule also allows for the optional earlier use of empirical data calculation methods for facilities that prefer to use them to quantify 2024 emissions. These changes expand the options for owners and operators to submit empirical data to demonstrate their effort to reduce methane emissions and identify whether a Waste Emissions Charge is owed.