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Focusing on emissions

| By Chemical Engineering

This August, two milestone actions were taken to set standards for emissions control in the U.S. On August 3, U.S. President Obama and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy released the final Clean Power Plan — the first-ever national standards to limit carbon emissions from fossil-fuel-fired electric generating units. Power plants are the largest source of carbon emissions in the U.S., and the new plan aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. The Clean Power Plan is said to take into account some four million comments submitted to the EPA during a public comment period. The emissions targets are state-specific and a host of “Fact Sheets” that give details are available on the EPA’s website (

On August 18, the EPA announced its proposal to cut methane emissions, another greenhouse gas (GHG), from the oil-and-gas sector. The proposal is a part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to cut methane emissions from the oil-and-gas sector by 40–45% from 2012 levels by 2025. Stating that methane is a “potent GHG with a global warming potential more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide,” the EPA says that nearly 30% of methane emissions come from oil production, and the production, transmission and distribution of natural gas. The proposal requires the following in order to cut methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions: finding and repairing leaks; capture of natural gas from hydraulic fracturing; and limiting emissions from several types of equipment (more information on the proposal can be found at



The tightening regulations on emissions provide more impetus to further already ongoing technical developments in a number of areas. There are, for example, promising developments in the area of carbon capture and sequestration (see Post-Combustion Carbon Capture Technologies, Chem. Eng., March 2015, pp. 70–73). And a host of sensor, sealing and vapor-recovery technologies are available to aid in reducing methane emissions (see Targeting Methane Emissions, Chem. Eng., March 2015, pp. 20–24). In response to the EPA announcement of its proposal to reduce methane emissions, the Fluid Sealing Association (FSA; Wayne, Pa., recognized the importance of addressing the issue, and Mike Shorts, president of the FSA said “The sealing industry is ready to get to work to fix this issue. Our technology can be part of the solution and we know this is doable.”


In this issue

For a broader, global perspective on emissions, this month’s Feature Report on Emissions Regulations and Control (pp. 56–60) offers an elucidating look at how fugitive emissions are regulated around the world, and suggests how we can better control them.

This month’s two-part cover story on Engineering Ethics (pp. 46–55) includes an interactive section that poses a number of scenarios and asks how you would respond. A link to the survey is available on our website (

And there is much more in this issue, including articles on ionic liquids, modeling and simulation, and flare operations. We hope you enjoy reading it. ■

CHE_Editor_DL_21  Dorothy Lozowski, Editor in Chief