Latest: New air quality requirements for Utah oil & gas

Operators must install low or no-bleed valves on tanks to curb venting into the air.

  • Scientists install instruments in the Uintah Basin to study air chemistry.


Thanks to meteorological inversions and air pollution from around 10,000 oil and gas wells, wintertime ozone levels in Utah’s rural Uintah Basin have surpassed federal health limits most years since measurements began in 2009, eclipsing even the country’s smoggiest cities. Researchers, industry and regulators are studying the underlying chemistry in order to find a solution (“Cracking the ozone code in Utah’s gas fields,” HCN, 9/10/12).

In October, Utah finalized strict rules for emissions of volatile organic compounds — ozone ingredients identified as the primary cause of local air woes. The state now requires all operators to install low or no-bleed valves on tanks to curb venting into the air, and to have maintenance and inspection programs to ensure key equipment isn’t leaking, among other things. However, a modeling effort spearheaded by the Bureau of Land Management suggests that more rigorous emissions-control strategies will be required if development keeps booming, especially since the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to further tighten federal ozone standards. 

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