The Inflation Reduction Act and EPA Regulations Demand Emission Tracking and Management
On August 16, months of debate and uncertainty were brought to a close with President Biden’s signing of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The move represents the most significant action the nation has ever taken in the fight against climate change.
Despite its name calling attention to inflation, the bill is widely regarded as climate focused, devoting nearly half of its funds to green initiatives. With Washington finally emerging from deadlock to address climate change, enterprises are given yet another reminder that the time to enforce new sustainability standards—with the help of responsibly deployed AI—is now.
A New Climate Action Imperative
The Democratic Party identifies five key objectives for the Inflation Reduction Act. Among these is an effort to “decarbonize” the economy, reducing total emissions by around 40 percent by the end of the decade. To this end, the bill introduces grants and tax credits to support emission reduction in sectors like manufacturing, fund the transition to more renewable energy sources, and spearhead American production of green technology.
While the bill mostly incentivizes organizations to proactively reduce their emissions, it also includes a threat of potential penalty in the form of new powers for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For the first time in history, the EPA will have the ability to impose fines on high-emission oil and gas producers. Affected facilities will include both on- and off-shore production, compression, processing, and storage facilities. Organizations that are subject to new regulations will pay $900 for every ton of methane they emit in excess of the EPA’s limits. That figure increases to $1500 beginning in 2026.
VOC Leak Detection: Monitor or Get Monitored
In Texas and New Mexico, regulatory authorities are already taking to the skies and deploying advanced computer vision models to track emissions. On August 1, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would conduct helicopter flyovers to survey oil and gas operations across the Permian Basin. The region is home to 40% of the nation’s fossil fuel production and, as Dr. Earthea Nance notes, it is also the site of unintended volatile organic compound (VOC) leaks.
“The flyovers, Nance remarks, “are vital to identifying which facilities are responsible for the bulk of these emissions and therefore where reductions are most urgently needed.” The organization concluded its flyovers, the first since 2019, earlier this month.
The EPA’s new regulations give enterprises the freedom to choose their own preferred detection technologies. Industry leaders would benefit from following the regulators’ lead and deploying computer vision models of their own to detect unseen leaks.
With Plainsight’s models for volatile organic compound (VOC) detection, organizations quickly develop a proactive, de-risking approach to daily operations and not only avoid fees, but save money and keep their teams and communities around them safer.
- Monitoring: Continuously and automatically monitor facilities to detect critical events like gas leaks, security breaches, and tank fill-level changes.
- Measurement: Calculate leak severity to facilitate quick and definitive remediation.
- Alerting: Automate incident responses with alerts related to event location, type and severity to facilitate a response without shutting down facilities.
- Reporting: Collect a log of incidents with an auditable library of video clips to inform regulatory compliance and low-risk operations.
More CV Use Cases for Energy Providers
Forward-thinking energy providers are already deploying vision AI solutions to keep employees safer, reduce their environmental impact, and keep worksites safer and more productive.
Tank-Fill Level Monitoring
Remote tank-fill level monitoring models empower energy providers to see inside their tanks without opening the thief hatch and causing additional emissions or putting themselves at risk.
Personal Protective Equipment Detection
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential for keeping employees safe and facilities productive in the oil and gas industry. Detection models trained to recognize helmets, gloves, and other PPE help eliminate unsafe conditions to reduce injuries and downtime.