New Mexico methane waste report

New analysis finds emissions from oil and gas are higher than official estimates

Report published November 2017

A new report based on recent scientific breakthroughs in methane quantification finds that emissions of methane – both a potent greenhouse gas and valuable fuel source – are drastically higher than official state reports.  

The analysis examines the methane that is burned off, vented, or leaked from the oil and gas supply chain in New Mexico and quantifies the economic value of that lost gas based on market prices. The report offers insights about the largest sources of methane waste in order to help policy makers and operators identify the greatest opportunities to reduce pollution, increase efficiency, and return a valuable commodity to the local economy and state taxpayers.

Key findings

  • Oil and gas companies emit 570,000 tons of methane each year due to intentional emissions, unintentional leaks, and flaring of gas.
  • This volume of lost gas is worth between $182 and $244 million based on current market prices.
  • Inefficient industry practices are costing taxpayers up to $27 million a year in lost revenues and royalties.
  • Oil and gas companies in New Mexico produce as much climate pollution as approximately 12 coal-fired power plants.

Additional background

New Mexico’s methane waste problem first made international headlines when a 2014 NASA study revealed a 2,500-square-mile methane “hot spot” over the Four Corners region—the highest concentration of this pollution found anywhere in the U.S. Researchers later learned that pollution from New Mexico’s oil and gas facilities were largely the cause of this massive methane cloud.

A number of analyses in recent years have shown oil and gas operators can cost-effectively reduce their emissions. The International Energy Agency found a 75% reduction in global emissions is feasible with simple fixes, using available technologies.
Map of hot spots

This methane hot spot is the largest concentration of methane in the country.

Credit: NASA

Download the report [PDF]