The Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposed a new rule to reduce waste of natural gas from venting, flaring, and leaks from oil and gas operations on federal and Tribal lands. Royalties will be collected from operators when “excessive” gas amounts are flared or vented.
Technology: Vapor recovery for storage tanks and “low-bleed” pneumatic equipment.
Leak Detection: Mandated Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) program on federal and Tribal leased lands. Specific controllers and pumps prohibited, and specific storage tanks required.
Gas Capture: Requirement for plans to address natural gas loss through reviewing capacity of available pipeline infrastructure. BLM may restrict drilling permits to prevent potential flaring/venting.
Flaring Limits: Monthly limits (time and volume) on royalty-free flaring, even when due to pipeline capacity constraints.
The proposed rule is intended to revise outdated BLM oil and gas management requirements and to compel modernization of equipment and practices, with the goal of methane reduction through minimizing venting, flaring, and leaks.
Operators who do not reduce natural gas wastage to meet required levels will be charged royalties to compensate federal and Indian mineral-rights holders. The DOI is also moving to implement federal and Tribal co-stewardship of resources – land, water, and wildlife. These changes may affect leasing, use restrictions, and access to resources.
Recent annual levels (2010 – 2020) of venting and flaring on public land, estimated at 44 B cubic feet/year, are around four times higher than previous decades (1990 – 2000).
This proposed rule is based on U.S. Government Accountability Office reports that noted the revenue losses due to outdated BLM regulations. Some states (Colorado, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico) have already implemented measures to reduce venting, flaring, and leaks. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also moving to regulate national methane emissions through monitoring and reduction requirements.
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