EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a request by governors from eight Corn Belt states to remove a summertime waiver for Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) included in the Clean Air Act (CAA) for E10 gasoline, a 90/10 blend of petroleum-derived gasoline blendstock and ethanol. The motive for the governors’ request was a desire to increase sales of E15 gasoline and, by extension, boost ethanol/corn demand by putting it on the same summertime footing as E10. In granting the approval, the EPA conceded that the distribution system wasn’t ready for the change. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the decision and the impact it will have on refiners, retailers and drivers, and how it is likely to work against the Biden administration’s plans to keep a lid on gasoline prices. 

There’s already so much involved in developing new LNG export capacity: lining up offtakers, securing federal approvals, sourcing natural gas, developing pipelines ... the list goes on. Now, with the increased emphasis on minimizing emissions of methane, the folks involved in LNG exports are also wary of the methane intensity (MI) of their feedgas, which depends not only on the steps that gas producers, pipeline companies and LNG exporters themselves take to mitigate methane emissions but also on where the gas comes from. But with so many new export terminals coming online, gas flows are sure to change, right? So how can you possibly assess what those flow changes will mean for the MI of gas over time? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the role that MI may play in sourcing natural gas for LNG. 

Discussions and debates around the carbon-capture industry have been everywhere in recent years, from the federal incentives designed to spur its growth and the role it might play in decarbonization efforts to the technical challenges and economic headwinds that add uncertainty to its long-term outlook. And while all of those are important topics worthy of future conversation, none of those potential projects are going to happen without somewhere to put all that carbon dioxide (CO2). The wells used for permanent CO2 sequestration are largely approved at the federal level by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but a few states have gained control — aka “primacy” — over the permitting process. In today’s RBN blog, we explain what it means to have primacy, why it has become an increasingly important goal in recent years, and the potential benefits that come with it. 

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments January 17 in a pair of cases that are poised to capsize the so-called Chevron Deference, a 40-year-old legal doctrine that provides a key foundation for modern administrative law. It’s a big deal – big enough that we’re willing to wade into a little bit of legalese to help make sense of it. So strap in because in today’s RBN blog, we’ll explain what the Chevron Deference is, why it’s worth knowing about, how it applies to two cases that could alter its application, and how a ruling that limits or eliminates the doctrine’s usage and application could transform energy industry regulation.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments January 17 in a pair of cases that are poised to capsize the so-called Chevron Deference, a 40-year-old legal doctrine that provides a key foundation for modern administrative law. It’s a big deal – big enough that we’re willing to wade into a little bit of legalese to help make sense of it. So strap in because in today’s RBN blog, we’ll explain what the Chevron Deference is, why it’s worth knowing about, how it applies to two cases that could alter its application, and how a ruling that limits or eliminates the doctrine’s usage and application could transform energy industry regulation.

The Biden administration’s recent announcement at the COP28 climate change conference in Dubai that it has issued a final rule on reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry raises an important question: If the feds will be requiring every producer to phase out flaring, install new equipment, and meet new, aggressive standards for emissions monitoring and leak detection and repair, will there still be a need for entities like MiQ and Project Canary to score or assess the lower-emissions natural gas produced by a significant subset of enviro-conscious E&Ps? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the potential impacts of the new EPA rule on gas certification/differentiation and the development of a market for low-methane gas. 

Renewable diesel (RD) production has been surging this year, far surpassing blending mandates established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But there may be storm clouds on the horizon. The jump in RD production has led to excess generation of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), the tool used to ensure compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), impacting RD economics. With RD production set to move even higher in 2024 amid already-declining margins, it has left some to wonder how the market will come back into balance. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the growth in RD production, the resulting impact on RIN volumes and prices, and how things could shake out next year. 

At first glance, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to facilitate increased sales of E15 — an 85/15 blend of gasoline blendstock and ethanol — by putting it on the same summertime regulatory footing as commonly available E10 in eight Midwest/Great Plains states might seem like a boon to corn farmers and ethanol producers. But as we discuss in today’s RBN blog, there are a number of economic, practical and even psychological barriers to broadened public access to — and use of — E15 that go well beyond the specific regulatory issue the EPA proposal addresses. As a result, as we see it, EPA’s plan is unlikely to boost E15 demand in any meaningful way, at least for now.

Oil and gas companies across the value chain are facing new pressures to manage and reduce methane emissions. Their ability to access premium markets and buyers, appeal to investors and avoid costly fees depends on developing a credible plan to measure and reduce methane emissions. At the very least, the industry’s regulatory outlook, its non-governmental quasi-oversight and its access to capital are changing in ways that make understanding sometimes inconsistent emissions data vitally important. In today’s RBN blog, we explore the recent changes and the mounting external pressures around methane emissions.

The National Environmental Policy Act was created to ensure federal agencies consider the environmental impacts of their actions and decisions, but it is the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which serves as the White House’s environmental policy arm, that provides guidance as to how those agencies should evaluate the projects subject to their review. Energy and environmental policy have shifted under President Biden, and interim guidance recently submitted by the CEQ extends efforts to prioritize the administration’s commitment toward lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Still, it’s not easy to swiftly change policy, for a variety of reasons. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the CEQ’s interim guidance and why the real-world impact on energy and environmental policy might be hard to quantify for a variety of reasons, at least in the short term.

Refineries with hydrofluoric acid alkylation units account for about 40% of total U.S. refining capacity. Many in the refining sector are concerned that an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to compel refineries to conduct exacting studies of newer, alternative alkylation technologies could be leveraged to discourage and effectively ban HF alkylation, and as a result, potentially lead to more refinery closures. The U.S. already has lost more than 1.3 MMb/d of refining capacity since 2019 — losses that exacerbated the run-up in motor fuel prices through the first half of last year — and the specter of another round of refinery closures on the horizon looms large. In today’s RBN blog, we consider the challenges that refineries with HF “alky” units might face if they were required to replace them.

Since 2019, more than 1.3 MMb/d of U.S. refinery capacity has been either shut down for economic reasons or converted to renewable diesel production. The decline in the nation’s ability to produce gasoline and diesel hampered the refining sector’s response to the post-COVID demand recovery and exacerbated the big run-up in motor fuel prices that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February. Now, there may be a new threat to U.S. refining, namely the possibility that a proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule on hydrofluoric-acid-based alkylation could, over time, spur an even larger round of refinery closures. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our look at alkylate — a critically important part of the U.S. gasoline pool — the prospective regulation and its possible effects.

The Biden administration’s first foray into reducing methane emissions from oil and gas operations, released in November 2021, promised to reduce emissions from hundreds of thousands of existing sites, expand and strengthen emission-reduction requirements, and encourage the use of new technologies. It was clear about one other thing too, namely that more was already in the works. And sure enough, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently followed up with a proposal that significantly broadens the initial plan. In today’s RBN blog we look at that supplemental proposal, its targeting of so-called “super-emitters,” and why third-party groups will play a bigger role in mitigating methane emissions in the years ahead.

Alkylate is an important and valuable part of the U.S. gasoline pool, prized for its high octane, low volatility and low sulfur content. There are two primary catalysts that refiners can opt to use in the production of alkylate: hydrofluoric acid, or HF, and sulfuric acid, or H2SO4.  Each is quite popular, with HF and sulfuric acid technologies each representing about half of domestic alkylation capacity — and with those shares varying significantly on a regional basis. While refiners have been safely operating both types of “alky” units for many decades, HF alkylation for some time has been in the crosshairs of the Environmental Protection Agency, which recently proposed that refiners be required to undertake extensive evaluations of potentially safer alternative technologies. It’s hard to know for sure, but if EPA’s proposed rule is made final it could ultimately force many refineries to make very costly changes — into the hundreds of million dollars per unit — or maybe even shut down entirely. In today’s RBN blog, we look at alkylate, how it’s made, and the potentially profound effects of the impending regulation.

The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) offers a lot of incentives, mostly in the way of tax credits, to advance the Biden administration’s clean-energy initiatives and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are inducements for everything from carbon capture and electric vehicles to renewable energy and hydrogen production, but very few penalties. One exception is included in the new law’s Methane Emissions Reduction Program (MERP), which features the federal government’s first-ever fee on the emissions of any GHG. In today’s RBN blog, we look at recent attempts to mitigate methane emissions, how the new methane charge will work, and how it could one day be replaced by new federal rules.