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Colorado passes sweeping new regulations for oil, gas development | Energy & Environment
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Colorado passes sweeping new regulations for oil, gas development | Energy & Environment

Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission has passed broad regulations this month that officials claim will make it more expensive for oil and gas companies to meet the state’s emission goals.

The state Air Pollution Control Division asks the oil and natural gas industry to reduce its emission levels by 36% by 2025, compared with 2005 levels, and by 60% by 2030.

Energy producers will be paying $59 million to $142 millions annually for the new regulations. They require strict requirements to capture and dispose off byproducts, while preventing gasses from escaping into the atmosphere.

The Colorado Oil & Gas Association president Dan Haley stated that Colorado cannot solve climate change alone.

He stated that the projected costs are in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars already incurred by energy producers from previous changes to emission regulations.

These excessive costs will impact economic growth and competition and will increase energy costs domestically as well as internationally, Haley stated.

Others felt the commission was not sufficiently thorough.

While the air rules adopted today are a significant improvement, they still fall short of what is needed, said Matt Jones, Boulder County Commissioner. Leakage of chemicals from oil and gas wells can cause cancer. These chemicals include benzene, which can create ozone and can cause lung damage. There is no time to waste. We need to take immediate action.

Existing regulations require that hydrocarbon emissions which contribute to ground-level production of ozone be reduced by at least 95%. This is especially true in the Front Range corridor.

The devices capture methane from oil storage tanks or compressors and burn them before they are released into the atmosphere.

All enclosed combustion devices must be tested for performance by May 1, 2028, according to the new regulations. Regulators estimate that this will require the testing of approximately 1,731 devices annually at a cost of $10.9million per year for five year. The new regulations require flow meters to be installed on enclosed combustion devices in order to determine how much they are burning. This will cost $3.7 million annually.

Infrared cameras are used most often for leak detection monitoring. It takes 10.6 hours to inspect with an infrared camera, and 21 hours to inspect using an EPA-approved method called Method 21. This process uses sophisticated electronic instruments to sniff the air around facilities to detect any emissions.

In 2020, there were more than half of a million inspections. Only 10% of inspections were done using Method 21.

According to the state, a single infrared camera is costing $132,000 for leak detection. After all inspection costs are added up, the price is almost $200,000

Commissioners pointed out that one leak detection company in Colorado didn’t believe it could meet the increased demand for inspections. That’s 18,348 man-hours a year, or 10 hours per inspection.

Lynn Granger, the executive director of American Petroleum Institute’s Colorado section, stated that today’s vote was crucial for Colorado. The centerpiece of this rulemaking was the adoption by the commissions of an emissions intensity program. This allows operators to reduce emissions proactively, and not through top-down mandates, which could have slowed down or prevented them from reducing them.

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