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US EPA reaches agreement with KPK on reducing emissions from oil and gas operations

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Justice Department and the state of Colorado have announced a settlement with K. P. Kauffman Company (KPK), which resolves alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act and Colorado’s air quality regulations.

The settlement required KPK to put in place pollution control measures at 67 well production facilities, at a total estimated cost of $2.5 million (€2.3 million). The company will also pay a $1 million (€0.9 million) civil penalty.

Allegations were made in October 2018 against the company, claiming that KPK violated requirements to minimise volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from its oil and natural gas production operations in the Denver-Julesburg Basin.

The well production facilities covered by the settlement are in a location that does not meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards established under the Clean Air Act for ground-level ozone, the Denver Metro/Northern Front Range ozone nonattainment area. The action is expected to result in improved air quality in communities across the Front Range by reducing VOC emissions that lead to the formation of ground-level ozone.

“Oil and gas production fuels our economy, but it must be done responsibly,” said Jeffrey Bossert Clark, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We will continue to take action where operators fail to comply with our nation’s clean air laws.”

“This is the fourth joint settlement EPA has completed with the State of Colorado to secure compliance and reduce emissions from storage tanks at oil and gas operations,” added EPA regional administrator Gregory Sopkin. “EPA continues to enforce the Clean Air Act, and our partnership with the State continues to deliver cleaner, healthier air for Colorado’s communities.”

Under the agreement, KPK will implement measures to improve operation and maintenance practices and ensure the vapour control systems on its storage tanks are adequately designed and sized. The improvements, which include regular inspections using infrared cameras and the installation of pressure monitors to detect and respond to excess emissions, are expected to reduce VOC emissions from KPK’s operations by around 424 tonnes per year.

KPK will also implement three environmental mitigation projects to further reduce VOC emissions. The company will install rod lifts at 12 oil and gas wells to reduce or eliminate the need to unload the well, a procedure used to increase well production, during which emissions are vented to the atmosphere.

The company will also use a Boreal Laser to scan for methane emissions at all well production facilities covered by the consent decree, and if necessary, will follow up with corrective actions to address the emissions. Finally, KPK will implement operation and maintenance requirements, including increased inspections, at four production facilities not covered by air pollution regulations due to their small size. The company expects these mitigation projects to reduce VOC emissions by an additional 131 tonnes per year.