Air rules put kibosh on filters, firm says

A Grand Junction company says proposed new state oil and gas air regulations would effectively rule out the use of its filter approach to pollution control in Colorado.

Worldwide Liquid Solution, LLC, said its system cost-effectively removes volatile organic compounds like benzene and toluene vented from pressure-relief valves on storage tanks. But the filter wouldn’t work under the rules because it doesn’t also strip out methane and ethane, which the Air Pollution Control Division has specifically proposed to target.

As a result, companies will be forced to use flares or combustion devices to burn off VOCs, which will actually increase secondary pollution, the company says.

The company is frustrated because the division hadn’t mentioned the possibility of pursuing methane and ethane reduction during a stakeholder process as the rules were being developed. Instead, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced those goals late last year, following negotiations between the state, Environmental Defense Fund and Noble Energy, Encana and Anadarko Petroleum.

The rules, to be considered by the Air Quality Control Commission in a hearing starting today, would make Colorado the first state to specifically target control of methane, a greenhouse gas, in oil and gas operations.

Worldwide Liquid Solution primarily is involved in produced water treatment for oil and gas operations. It began using the filtration system to control air pollution related to that treatment.

It has customers using the filter in Colorado and other states. But while the filter is fully compliant in places like Utah, Texas and Wyoming, the proposed rules threaten its contracts with companies in Colorado.

“This has been quite difficult for our Colorado customers,” said Matt Smith, a former state lawmaker who is the company’s director of government and regulatory affairs.

He said flaring to treat VOCs requires an increased supply of methane and ethane as a fuel source, which wastes a resource and produces another greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. The methane and ethane not captured by the company’s filter amounts to half of the pollution resulting from flaring or combustion, he said.

Methane is considered some 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. But Smith said it typically dissipates from the atmosphere in about 11 years, versus more than a century for carbon dioxide.

The company will be testifying at this week’s hearing, hoping it can make a good case with the commission after what it says was a disappointing process leading up to the proposed rules.


COMMENTS

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Flaring is still the safest way to eliminate explosion hazards from the wellsite. I would rather risk a small amount of carbon dioxide being released to the atmosphere for protection from 3rd degree burns or from being blown to bits.

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