FERC Gas-Electric Information Sharing Order Draws Complaints

February 2014, Vol. 69 No. 2

Methane leaks from pipeline equipment could become a bigger issue because of a study being conducted at the University of Texas at Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering. Nine natural gas producers and the Environmental Defense Fund are cooperating with David Allen, the director of the UT Center for Energy and Environmental Resources.

The first phase of that study focused on methane emissions from fracking. The conclusion was that methane emissions from venting are substantially less than what the EPA has estimated. But the study also revealed that emissions from pneumatic controllers are substantially higher. That conclusion could pose significant implications for pipelines, since its pneumatic controllers are not covered under the 2012 New Source Performance Standards, which only apply to new and modified equipment and not to existing stock.

The UT-EDF Fugitive Methane Study is entering a second phase which will look at emissions from pneumatic controllers at wells.

OSHA Wants To Include Oil, Gas In Process Safety Standard

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wants to make some changes to its Process Safety Management (PSM) standard which, if finalized, could have a significant impact on energy companies. Changes to the PSM are being proposed in conjunction with separate changes to the agency's Explosives and Blasting Agents standard which would impact underground construction firms.

The OSHA announced the potential changes in a request for information, which is the first step in a rulemaking process. That means any changes won't happen for at least a few years at the earliest. The agency is moving forward because of an Executive Order President Obama signed on Aug. 1, 2013, which charged the OSHA with identifying issues related to modernization of its PSM standard and related standards necessary to prevent major chemical accidents.

OSHA decided on the menu of potential upgrades to the PSM and blasting standards based on after-action reports conducted by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) in the wake of chemical and refinery industry explosions over the past half decade or so. The enhancements to the PSM that OSHA is considering include applying it for the first time to oil- and gas-well drilling, servicing and oil- and gas-production facilities. The blasting standard would be expanded to cover dismantling and disposal of explosives, blasting agents and pyrotechnics.