How to Prepare For The New EPA Methane Regulation Deadline

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Earlier this year, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the QuadOa (OOOOa) regulations, and finally brought Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) into the mainstream. Under the terms of QuadOa, OGI technology may be used in well sites and compressor stations in all routine gas leak inspections, whether quarterly or semi-annually in the oil and gas industry. Whereas previously the EPA only permitted the use of OGI as a partial alternative for routine leak inspections, with gas sniffers being commonly used as part of a technique called Method 21.


The EPA legislation, which came into effect in August 2016, and will be mandatory by June 2017, states that OGI is the the best system for reducing hydrocarbon emissions in the oil and gas sector. But what exactly is it? OGI is the use of an infrared thermal-imaging camera that enables operatives to visualize hydrocarbons to identify plumes of leaking gas. They can then find the source of the leak with pinpoint accuracy and take swift mitigating action.


The new EPA regulation still allows for the continued use of the previous method of gas sniffers. But supporting documents show that OGI inspections are up to four times faster and therefore significantly more cost-effective. With a new regulatory framework, the stage is set for widespread adoption of OGI.


So, what can companies do to prepare for the deadline? By understanding what to look for in OGI technology – operators can ensure they are compliant from the get-go. There are three main aspects of OGI technologies to consider:


  1. Compliance with OOOOa requirements. First, look for appropriately certified and compliant tools as the regulations give specifications on what OGI technology should be able to do. Operators must ensure the equipment is capable of detecting hydrocarbons by working selectively in the correct spectral band. OOOOa also requires a very sensitive camera that can detect a small leak with a flow rate of 60 g/h.


Operators should also determine that the OGI camera can record video of the inspection process, including date, time and GPS location as evidence for regulatory audits.


  1. Environmental suitability. The technology has to be suitable for the unique challenges of the oil and gas operating environment. In particular, withstanding the typically harsh conditions. Operators should look for cameras that are certified for hazardous locations: with UL Class 1 Div 2 certification. Not only will this ensure the equipment is appropriate for the safety requirements, it avoids the process of securing an individual “hot permit” for every use.


  1. Daily operation. The new regulations represent a significant step-up in the use of OGI technology, as it becomes a routine method rather than a specialized tool. Therefore, it is important to consider that the design of the equipment, as it will now be used on a much more frequent basis, in all weather conditions and during long hours of operation.


These regulations come at a time when all operators are driving cost-efficiencies throughout their operations in order to maximize production. Choosing the right technologies now, such as the EyeCGas optical gas imaging camera will ensure companies are ready to comply with legislation and meet these demands while keeping people and the environment safe. Resulting in minimizing losses from lost product and shortening the time to detect and repair critical assets.