By 2015, the EPA will require all hydraulic fracturing operations to conform to "green completion" rules to protect the air from pollution created when wells are tapped. Oil and gas companies will have to capture the chemicals that would otherwise be released into the air, and until the new rule takes full effect, drillers must flare their emissions. Currently, about half of all wells are already either flaring their emissions or using green completions.
As a result of the regulation, which was initiated following a Clean Air Act lawsuit, the EPA estimates that air emissions at well sites will be slashed 95% over the next three years. These emissions normally include carcinogenic solvents, methane, and VOCs that react with sunlight to create smog.
The phase-in approach to the new regulation is partly due to the need for green completion technologies to become widely available and to be installed at sites. These sites include roughly 11,000 new fracturing wells that are drilled each year, plus over a thousand that are re-fracked (for a total of about 13,000), creating a large demand for such technologies. In the meantime, companies that use green completions to re-frack will not be subject to permitting requirements.
This is an important first step to make sure natural gas is harvested in the safest and cleanest way possible. Green completion has benefits to both consumers, whose health will be protected by the EPA's directive, and to gas companies that can collect the captured materials that have a commercial value as a product, such as methane.
PWA can also capture some of these compounds when they are in their liquid state while pitted, so less water needs to be sent for disposal and fewer compounds need to be sent to a flare stack or air capture system. Plus, fewer solvents such as benzene and toluene escape prior to treatment, helping our clients to comply with EPA emissions rules and leaving just clean water for evaporation into the atmosphere.