EPA has established new deadlines and caps on volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from storage tanks used in oil and natural gas production and transmission that have the potential to emit more than 6 tons of VOCs per year. The pre-publication version of the new rule, to be codified as amendments to 40 C.F.R. Part 60, Subpart 0000, can be accessed here, and will be effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. The rule generally applies to tanks involved in temporary storage along the oil and natural gas production and transmission process, before the liquids are moved to a pipeline, sold or disposed.

Under the federal Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA regulates emissions of VOCs and air toxics, including benzene. The Agency first issued New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) in 2012 for tanks storing crude oil, condensate, intermediates/unrefined petroleum liquids, or produced water, with the intent to reduce VOC emissions by 95% from subject tanks in the oil and gas sector. EPA’s basis for these additional changes is its estimate that more tanks will be subject to the rule than initially expected. EPA is allowing a maximum of 20 months from the effective date of this rule for tanks to come into compliance with the requirements to control VOCs.

All new oil storage tanks that come into service after April 12, 2013, must have VOC controls within 60 days of service or by April 15, 2014 (whichever is later). Tanks that were in service as of April 12, 2013, must have VOC controls no later than April 15, 2015. Tanks subject to existing federal or state CAA permits are exempt if they emit less than 6 tons of VOC per year with controls. Owners/Operators have the option of either reducing the VOC emissions at a tank by 95% or meeting an alternative emissions limit if the owner or operator can make a demonstration that the tank emits less than 4 tons of VOC per year without controls.

The rule also requires monthly monitoring of regulated tanks for cover, leaks, etc., and preparation of Annual Reports. The Agency initially called for continuous monitoring of emissions, but that has been challenged; that issue and other issues raised in petitions from industry, environmental and governmental organizations are still under review.