BLM Methane and Waste Prevention Rule
October 16, 2018

In September 2018, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced the revision of the 2016 rule “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation” (43 CFR Parts 3160 and 3170). A prepublication of the final rule can be found at: Link. The rule becomes effective 60 days after publication.

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The 2016 rule was intended to reduce natural gas venting, flaring, and leaks from oil and natural gas production from onshore Federal and Indian leases. There were objections to and litigation filed against the 2016 rule by certain States and industry based existing BLM statutory authorities, economic burdens and that the 2016 rule overlapped with existing States, Tribal and Federal rules (e.g., 40 CFR 60 Subparts OOOO and OOOOa). The rule change addresses these issues.

The final rule is intended to discourage excessive venting and flaring by using volume and time limits on royalty-free venting/flaring during production testing, emergencies and downhole well maintenance and liquids unloading.

The rule rescinded the following requirements of the 2016 rule:

  • Waste Minimization Plans
  • Well drilling natural gas use and disposal requirements
  • Well completion natural gas use and disposal requirements
  • Pneumatic controllers equipment requirements
  • Pneumatic diaphragm pumps equipment requirements
  • Storage vessels equipment requirement  
  • Leak detection and repair (LDAR) requirements

For flaring of associated gas from oil wells, the BLM will defer to State or Tribal regulations to determine when flaring is royalty-free. In addition, the BLM has modified and/or replaced the following requirements of the 2016 rule with similar requirements contained in NTL-4A:

  • Gas-capture requirements
  • Downhole well maintenance and liquids unloading requirements
  • Measuring and reporting volumes of gas vented and flared

The remaining requirements in the 2016 rule have either been retained, modified only slightly, or removed, but the impact of the removal is small relative to the items listed above.

NSPS OOOO and OOOOa

Many of the rescinded parts of the 2016 rule regarding emissions are currently addressed in the EPA’s rules in 40 CFR 60 Subparts OOOO and OOOOa. In a September 2018 notice, the EPA proposed changes to the NSPS OOOOa rules. See LINK for details on the proposed changes. Also, some States have existing rules regarding the control of air pollution from venting and flaring.

Rule Relationship to Air Permitting  

This rule pertains to waste of natural gas and oil and does not address air pollution limitations in permits required by State, Tribal and Federal air permitting rules.

New Rule Requirements

Venting Limitations

Gas well gas may not be flared or vented except where it is unavoidably lost.

Flaring gas required except that gas venting is allowed when:

  • Flaring is technically infeasible
  • Under emergency conditions or safety reasons exist
  • Venting from normal operation of natural gas operated pneumatic controllers and pumps
  • Venting from storage tanks and low pressure production vessels, unless the BLM determines that recovery of gas is warranted. NOTE: HY-BON/EDI can assist with determining if a vapor recovery unit (VRU) is economic or feasible.
  • Gas is vented during downhole well maintenance or liquids unloading activities
  • Non-routine facility and pipeline maintenance

The revised rule requires operators to flare (burn) any uncaptured gas, whether from oil wells or gas wells, with certain exceptions. The rule states that gas should be flared rather than vented based on guidance in USGS Notice NTL-4A - Royalty or Compensation for Oil and Gas Lost.

Authorized Flaring and Venting of Gas

  • Initial production testing
  • Subsequent well tests
  • Emergencies
  • Downhole well maintenance and liquids unloading

Operators have a general duty to minimize the loss of gas associated with downhole well maintenance and liquids unloading, consistent with safe operations.

Royalty-Free Flaring and Venting

The revised rule retains the 2016 Subpart 3178 royalty exemption provisions for natural gas used for beneficial operations and production purposes.

Exemptions from royalties for flaring and venting include:

  • Gas flared during the initial production test of each completed interval in a well limited to a maximum of 50 MMSCF total production or 30 days, whichever comes first
  • Gas flared during well tests after the initial production test is royalty free for a period not to exceed 24 hours, unless the BLM approves or requires a longer test period
  • Emergency flaring and venting
  • Gas vented from a plunger lift system and/or an automated well control system
  • Gas vented or flared during downhole well maintenance and well purging is royalty free for a period not to exceed 24 hours
  • Approved by the BLM on a case by case determination

Royalties are due on all avoidably lost oil or gas.

Measurement of Gas Vented and Flared

Options for measuring volumes of gas vented or flared include:

  • Estimate or measure vented or flared gas in accordance with applicable rules, regulations, or orders of the appropriate State or tribal regulatory agency
  • Estimate the volume of the vented or flared gas based on the results of a regularly performed gas-to-oil (GOR) test and measured values for oil and gas production
  • Direct measurement

HY-BON/EDI Vent Gas Management and Vapor Combustion Units (VCU)

HY-BON/EDI can assist your company with its vent gas management and flaring needs to comply with BLM rules. Our IQR direct measurement services can quantify the amount of gas from storage tanks to determine if a vapor recovery unit (VRU) is feasible and to size a needed combustion device.

We offer field proven Vapor Combustion Units (VCU) that meet EPA’s NSPS OOOOa requirements and BLM requirements for flaring gas from routine and emergency operations.

Contact us at gDbiV=h+'Z/9]#[vRoqgRz45gGJ or gDbiV=h+'Z/9^ELB]#[[|OOJUQ$09y'g!8+ for more information.