On August 5, 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced changes to the 2012 New Source Performance Standards for Oil and Natural Gas Production. The revisions outline new standards for storage tanks, including gradually phased in deadlines for emission control. The EPA made these updates in response to information received after the original standards were issued in April 2012.
The new standards require a 95% lowering of emissions in tanks that release 6 tons or more of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) annually. The deadline for this reduction is April 15, 2015 for tanks that came online before April 12, 2013. Tanks that come online after April 12, 2013 are required to meet the new emission standard within 60 days or by April 15, 2014, whichever is later.
If owners or operators can show their tank emits less than four annual tons of VOCs without controls, the revised standard allows for a separate emissions limit and permission to remove controls. The changes also make monitoring and compliance simpler for tanks with controls already installed.
According to the EPA, “Today’s updates respond to petitions for reconsideration of the 2012 New Source Performance Standards for Oil and Natural Gas Production. Those cost-effective standards rely on proven technologies and best practices to reduce emissions of ozone-forming VOCs and air toxics, including benzene and hexane. Exposure to ozone is linked to a variety of health effects, including aggravated asthma, reduced lung function and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections, in addition to increased risk of premature death from heart or lung disease. Benzene and hexane are air toxics, which can cause cancer and other serious health effects.”
Oil and gas crews working with storage tanks can be exposed to toxic air pollutants found in VOCs. Safeguard these employees by providing air monitoring and personal protective equipment, such as respiratory protection, eye and face protection, protective clothing, and hand protection.