Optical Gas Imaging Technology Changes Leak Detection Rules

EPA is issuing a final amendment to the leak detection and repair requirements allowing the use of optical gas imaging technology to locate emission leaks. The leaks are displayed on a video screen similar to the way night vision goggles are used to show the heat signature of objects. This amendment provides requirements for using the new technology; however, facilities may continue to use existing approved work practices to detect leaks.

Owners or operators who choose to use an optical gas imaging instrument instead of a traditional leak monitor will follow many of the same work practice requirements except for the requirements directly or indirectly associated with the instrument used to detect leaks. For example, no matter which instrument is used, owners or operators are still subject to the existing "difficult to monitor," "unsafe to monitor," repair, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements. If a leak is identified using an optical gas imaging instrument, then the leak must be re-screened after repair using the imaging instrument.

In all, EPA's amendment modifies about 40 national rules requiring facilities to find and repair leaks from equipment, including pumps, valves, and connectors, from refineries, chemical production plants, and bulk liquid storage facilities. The amendment, which was proposed in 2006, will be effective upon publication in the Federal Register. To view the rule, go to www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/t3pfpr.html.

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