Dear Acting Administrator Wheeler,
I am writing with respect to the above-named Reconsideration. I recently retired after a forty year career in the oil and gas industry, having worked at both an operating company - Exxon - and at an oilfield services company - Schlumberger. My job was to invent apparatus and methods to make oil and gas exploration and production safer and more efficient. My professional record is reflected in more than 100 scientific and technical publications, and 39 U.S. patents. In recognition of my expertise and achievements, I was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.
I have for some time been concerned that the 2016 40 CFR 60 OOOOa regulations tend to discourage technological innovation in methane leak detection and repair (LDAR). I am very glad to see palpable improvements in the 2018 Reconsideration, particularly in the provisions for alternative means of emission limitation (AMEL). However, in my opinion, the proposed 2018 AMEL regulation, 40 CFR 60.5398a, does not go far enough in encouraging the development and deployment of new means of LDAR, which would both better serve the underlying purposes of 40 CFR 60 OOOOa, and potentially do so at lower cost to regulated entities.
The only approved methods for methane leak detection and repair (LDAR) specified in the 2016 OOOOa regulation are optical gas imaging (OGI) and Method 21. These component-level methods of leak detection have been found to be effective in identifying leaks from individual components and connections. Strong baseline regulations to reduce methane emissions — at least as protective as those adopted by EPA in the 2016 new source performance standards (NSPS) for the oil and gas sector — are a cost-effective and technically achievable way to conserve resources and protect communities. However, given the vast number of components and connections dispersed over large areas in U.S. natural gas production and transmission systems that must be inspected periodically, I believe it is desirable to permit alternative means of emission limitation (AMEL) to make methane leak detection and repair more efficient, thereby reducing the cost of compliance.
Moreover, one underlying motivation for the regulations in question is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at the national level, see for example “Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Proposed Reconsideration of the Oil and Natural Gas Sector, Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources”, EPA-452/R-18-001, September 2018, Section 3.3. Although the OOOOa provisions are written to be site specific, greenhouse gas emissions assessed in the Regulatory Impact Analysis have national impact. Therefore, an explicit goal of this regulation should be reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at the national level.
Development and testing of new, more cost effective, methane detection paradigms and methodologies are likely to require significant research and development expenditures. In order for innovators to make these investments, they must see the possibility of market access beyond individual sites (as specified by the 2016 AMEL regulation) or even producing basins (as foreseen by the 2018 Reconsideration). Thus, regulations that permit only site-specific or even basin-specific comparison with OGI and Method 21 measurements are very likely to inhibit development of some classes of technologies that could lead to larger national-level methane emission reductions at lower cost. Therefore I propose allowing methods to be judged based on their national impact on LDAR efficacy. National-level efficacy cannot be based only on site-specific component-level field test results, but must also include other test data, and mathematical and statistical modeling.
The benefit of this national-level approach over the site specific method specified by the 2016 §60.5398a is, principally, a clear path to wide-spread commercialization. This encourages innovators to invest the research and development resources required to bring genuinely new and more effective measurement paradigms and methodologies to market.
In the accompanying document I present a specific example of how the present regulation inhibits technological innovation. I also propose language modifying both the 2016 40 CFR 60.5398a and the 2018 Reconsideration of 40 CFR 60.5398a.
Robert L. Kleinberg, Ph.D.
Institute for Sustainable Energy, Boston University
Center on Global Energy Policy, Columbia University
Member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers
Member of the National Academy of Engineering
The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the institutions with which he is affiliated.