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The development of shale formations across the United States has raised questions about methane emissions and their potential impacts as a greenhouse gas. The measurement and quantification of methane emissions have been studied for nearly 20 years, and even greater scrutiny is coming. President Obama has made it clear that part of the administration’s environmental policy will address methane emissions. The Ohio EPA also recently introduced methane emission control rules seeking to limit the methane emissions from development in the Utica shale. 

On April 15, 2014, the United States EPA issued five white papers on methane emissions seeking input from peer reviewers as well as comments from the public. The white papers addressed methane issues in the entire development chain:

• Hydraulically fractured oil wells
• Compressors
• Leaks
• Liquids unloading
• Pneumatic devices 

The US EPA study of fugitive emissions has received scrutiny from a number of researchers, including a joint study by Purdue University and Cornell University, which asserts that the EPA’s numbers understate the amount of methane emissions, in some cases substantially. 

Those entities in the oil and gas value chain, from E&P companies to pipeline operators including midstream gathering and interstate systems, to local distribution companies, have a vested interest in the outcome of the EPA’s efforts. 

US EPA seeks your input

The US EPA is seeking technical responses and data from the public on the five white papers, identifying specific questions for each area.  Responses are due to be filed by June 16, 2014.  Our Energy team has the expertise to assist in the preparation and filing of comments at the US EPA.