Special Report: New environmental ruleby Martin Menachery on Mar 15, 2017
A major development in the recent times in the global gas processing sector is the release of the proposed rule on 6 January 2017 requiring natural gas processing plants to start publicly reporting the toxic chemicals they release by the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).
The proposed rule comes in response to a 2012 petition filed by 19 environmental and open-government groups. Environmental groups are projecting this as a victory for open government, transparency and the public right to know. It is a known fact the oil and gas extraction industry releases more toxic pollution to the air than any other industry, except for power plants.
It is interesting to note that the US EPA is not proposing to make the natural gas processing companies to stop emissions, but just requiring these units to let people know about toxic pollution released near their homes, schools and workplaces. Another important element is that by the time the US EPA finalise this rule, the environmental groups will demand addition of well-heads, pipelines, compressor stations and other oil and gas infrastructure to the scope of the proposed rule.
While this development has direct implications, as of now, only in the US, definitely it is a trend-setter for the rest of the world. The environmental groups are very active everywhere in the world, especially in the emerging markets. It is important to note that the US Congress established the Toxics Release Inventory in 1986 to inform the public about the release of carcinogenic chemicals from industries in the wake of the deadly 1984 Bhopal disaster in India, in which toxic gases killed thousands of local residents.
Taking lead from the decision of the US EPA, environmental groups around the world will urge for similar rules in their respective countries. Majority of the countries in the emerging markets are densely populated, for example the Asian countries. Natural gas processing plants amidst these densely populated areas are definitely going to create an upheaval among the local residents and environmental groups, if these plants are actually emitting toxic pollutants excessively to the atmosphere.
The Middle East has been at the forefront in terms of vying for environmentally sustainable and state-of-the-art technologies and hence majority of the units will be safe in public opinion even if such a legislation is brought in place by the local government. Secondly, most of these plants are not located near densely populated areas and will not attract much public attention.
The proposed rule opens vast opportunities for companies offering equipment, solutions and technologies for environmental protection to the natural gas processing companies in the US as well as around the world. And people definitely have the right to know about the toxic pollutants emitted around their homes, schools and workplaces by not just natural gas processing sector but by every segment of the industry.