By Joy Ufford
Via Wyoming News Exchange
PINEDALE – Operators on the Pinedale Anticline Project Area said last week they checked their facilities for potential emissions leaks that could have caused the extremely high ozone exceedances in March.
The 2019 winter ozone season ran long, with five “ozone outlook” notices, 16 “ozone action days” and 10 days of exceedances of the federal eight-hour ozone threshold of 70 parts per billion.
Winter ozone is created when sunlight cooks emissions of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides to form a ground-level layer of the pollutant, which can cause and exaggerate respiratory problems.
And although Pinedale Anticline operators followed ozone contingency plans, reduced emissions and found only “minimal” emissions leaks during high ozone levels, no further information emerged about the potential pollution sources that peaked in March.
The Pinedale Roundup asked DEQ administrators if they have investigated other possible sources such as uncovered ponds at the Anticline Disposal Facility; no one responded before press time.
The operators’ annual meeting on April 25 took place at the Bureau of Land Management’s Pinedale Field Office.
Ultra Resources’ environmental and regulatory manager Kelly Bott of Denver addressed ozone contingency plans and emissions reductions. The company is “phasing out” pneumatic pumps to replace them with solar power and converting some facilities to electricity, she said.
Bott also outlined how Ultra and its employees prepared for the 2018-2019 winter ozone season.
“Almost all our staffers subscribe to the (DEQ’s) ozone notification and we really emphasize (training) in the pre-season. … Ultra has a policy of no vehicle idling, ever.”
With the DEQ calling 16 ozone action days in March, Ultra deferred deliveries, fueling snowplowing and noncritical travel. Exceptionally high ozone readings in the Boulder air-quality monitoring station led Ultra to check possible high sources of NOx and VOCs.
“We talked with DEQ with some additional measures,” she said. Ultra checked its major emissions sources “and we confirmed our leaks were very minimal during that time frame. There was nothing anomalous found with Ultra.”
Charles Prior of Pinedale Energy Partners Operating related that PEPO also submitted an ozone contingency plan to DEQ with employees pre-trained and emission reductions implemented the days around an official ozone action day. This year, PEPO deferred or postponed tank hauling, nonemergency construction, fueling and deliveries as well as shutting down ancillary equipment in the field. The operator also plans to use solar power for some equipment.
“We also want to have no idling on our vehicles,” including contractors, Prior said.
PEPO conducts “rigorous leak detection full-time, all the time.” He said facilities in the Riverside and Boulder areas were inspected and “confirmed leaks were minimal.”
Paul Ulrich of Jonah Energy said due to its small holdings in the Anticline, there was no activity last year and none is expected this year.
Jonah uses fluorescent gas-leak detection cameras and the majority of its operations are in the Jonah Field. By the end of 2020, at least nine locations will have emissions controls on tanks, he said.
Ulrich also described a pilot project to evaluate consolidating well-site compression. He described it as tying more wells to a single central delivery point for less surface disturbance and lower air emissions.
“We would be reducing the overall footprint,” Ulrich said. “There are a lot reasons why consolidating reduces emissions overall.”
He reported Jonah’s use of a large drone mounted with leak detection cameras is “looking very, very promising.”
Janet Bellis, BLM’s liaison with DEQ, presented the Pinedale Field Office’s overview of 2018 Pinedale Anticline air quality in respect to the Upper Green River Basin’s federal “marginal nonattainment” status, assigned in 2012 after previous ozone standard exceedances.
She said the Environmental Protection Agency assigns responsibility for being ozone compliant to the DEQ. The UGRB’s nonattainment status came after not meeting the 2008 ozone threshold of 75 parts per billion. In 2015, the current ozone standard was revised to 70 ppb.
DEQ’s Darla Potter, on the phone, went into more detail, explaining that EPA regulations for ozone attainment “are very confusing. It is not simple and it is not straightforward.”
The DEQ determined the UGRB is in attainment – but is nowa waiting EPA clarification about its standards and regulations. “We have not gone through every step so in fact we are still ‘nonattainment’ (with the EPA) for 2008.”
Last year, the EPA divided the UGRB to appoint Sublette, Sweetwater and Lincoln counties as in “attainment.”
“That’s why it’s so complicated for (DEQ),” Potter continued. “We are awaiting some clarity from the EPA.”
Potter described high ozone alerts and actions late in the winter season as “the longest stretch of ozone action days since we’ve started the program.”
Boulder posted nine days of 105 ppb while Daniel reported a maximum of 72 ppb. Pinedale, Big Piney and Juel Spring showed no exceedances.
“What’s unique about this winter ozone season, the majority occurred at the Boulder monitoring station,” she said. “It was different than any other station. We did not have any days (at the others) that were above that level.”
DEQ staff performed quality control because Boulder levels were high throughout the day instead of late afternoons. “We’re very much in the process of looking at all that information.”
Inspectors visited facilities and did walkthroughs to verify compliance or look at a particular area or source.
Carmel Kail asked Potter what will happen if the Boulder station’s ozone data show a high average she calculated at 72 ppb.
“The EPA is not explicitly clear on what happens in a situation such as this,” Potter said.
Regulations “do not specifically address” this situation with three counties, she added. “We are actively exploring this.”