Environmental regulations are becoming increasingly stringent at both the state and federal levels. The oil & gas sector and fugitive emissions are arguably under the biggest regulatory spotlight in 2022. As required monitoring frequencies are increased, alternative monitoring methods become more cost effective than traditional ones.
By Thomas Leleck, Arktos Environmental
On July 26th 2022, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) published the 20.5.50 Oil & Gas Sector – Ozone Precursor Pollutants (Part 50) in Issue 14 of the NM Register. The goal of this regulation according to the NMED is to, establish emissions standards for volatile organic compounds (VOC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) for oil and gas sources located in areas of the State within the Environmental Improvement Board’s jurisdiction where ozone concentrations are exceeding 95% of the national ambient air quality standard” (NMED, 2020).
The standards for equipment leaks in section 22.214.171.124 are more stringent in terms of the scope of process streams and total monitoring events than the current federal leak detection and repair (LDAR) requirements. Part 50 becomes effective on August 5th, 2022, so it is important to understand the LDAR implications at applicable facilities.
Monitoring records of all leak inspections must be maintained and able to be provided to NMED upon request. The following data must be kept for all inspections conducted pursuant to the rule:
description of leaks requiring repair or statement that no leaks were found
whether a visible tag was placed on the leak
For each detected leak, the following data must be kept:
date of detection
dates of repair attempt
date of successful repair
date the leak was monitored after the repair with monitoring results
a description of the component that is designated difficult, unsafe, or inaccessible to monitor with an explanation for the designation and a schedule for repairing and monitoring the component
For leaks that are designated “Repair Delayed” the following must be recorded:
reason for the delay must be recorded if the leak is not repaired within the required timeframe of discovery
a record of the attempt to order parts and unavailability if the delay is due to parts shortage
date of next scheduled process unit shutdown by which a repair will be completed
name of the personnel who determined a process shutdown was required for repair
Leaks identified using OGI methodology must keep records of the specifications, daily instrument checks, and the leak survey requirements found in 40 CFR 60.18(i)(1)-(3). In addition to these recordkeeping requirements, owners or operators must comply with the recordkeeping requirements laid out in the General Provisions of Part 50.
Owners or operators must comply with the recordkeeping requirements laid out in the General Provisions of Part 50.
How Can One Comply With This Rule?
With the same monitoring frequency required whether M21 or OGI methodology is utilized, the NMED has incorporated OGI technology as an equivalent method to M21 for this rule. The efficiencies of monitoring technology cannot be overlooked when addressing this and future LDAR rules. In a direct comparison, OGI technology can effectively monitor between 5,000-10,000 components per day versus M21 which can effectively monitor about 500 components per day. This makes OGI technology roughly 10 times more efficient than M21 from a conservative comparison. Efficiency equates to cost savings as LDAR monitoring frequencies are increased and this rule is no exception.
For the natural gas processing segment in New Mexico that is already affected by federal LDAR regulations (40 CFR Part 60 Subparts KKK, OOOO, OOOOa, etc.), additional efficiencies and can be realized by utilizing the Alternative Work Practice (AWP) to comply with the facilities federal LDAR requirements. The AWP allows facilities to utilize OGI technology in lieu of a traditional M21 program. The AWP involves bi-monthly monitoring events of every regulated LDAR component using OGI with one of those events being a M21 monitoring event. When implemented properly, an AWP program will have monitoring events every other month and each regulated component will be monitored five times with the OGI camera and one time with M21 for a total of six monitoring events over a 12-month period.
When complying with federal regulations by implementing the AWP, natural gas processing plants in New Mexico with potential to emit < 25 tpy of VOC’s only need to include scans of the remaining streams that are not applicable to their federal LDAR regulation in four of their six bi-monthly OGI scans. Because Part 50 only requires a quarterly monitoring frequency for these facilities, no additional monitoring events are required. To maximize efficiency and cost reduction, four of the six AWP monitoring events would also serve as the quarterly monitoring events required by Part 50. The only adjustment that would have to be made is that all components that do not fall under a facility’s federal LDAR regulation but fall under Part 50 would have to be monitored.
The same efficiencies can be realized at a natural gas processing plant in New Mexico with the potential to emit > 25 tpy of VOC’s. In this scenario, complying with Part 50 utilizing OGI technology creates efficiencies with all applicable federal LDAR rules where the AWP is implemented. For these facilities, a monthly monitoring frequency is required by Part 50 and every other month of monitoring can be used to satisfy the requirements of the AWP. Compliance is achieved at a state and federal level if one of the monthly surveys that is used to satisfy both Part 50 and the AWP is conducted with M21.
Alternatively, M21 can continue to be used to satisfy federal LDAR regulations and an OGI program can be separately implemented to comply with Part 50. Due to the varying frequencies of M21 requirements for federal LDAR regulations and the possibility of alternative standards or ‘skip periods’ that further alter the frequency of monitoring, it becomes more complicated to try to use this monitoring to comply with Part 50. With all of this in mind, developing a separate OGI program for Part 50 will make maintaining compliance and reporting more achievable.
With heightened regulatory requirements in New Mexico on top of existing federal requirements, there are two ways to achieve regulatory compliance: one route is utilizing OGI technology to comply with Part 50 while continuing with a federally compliant M21 program. The other option is implementing OGI technology for both Part 50 and federal regulations which allows owners and operators in New Mexico to continue operating with minimal added financial burden.
To learn more about the NMED Ozone Precursor Rule, part one of this article can be found in the August issue of Fugitive Emissions Journal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Leleck II is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Eastern Operations for Arktos Environmental LLC in Pittsburgh, PA. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering from Pennsylvania State University.
He has 7+ years of experience working in LDAR with a focus in providing OGI services and specializing in the development and implementation of AWP programs. In less than 2 years, he has helped Arktos grow into over 10 states across the U.S. in the oil & gas, petrochemical, and ethanol industries.
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