According to publicly available data from the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division, there were 1,477 reported spills in New Mexico in 2015, meaning an average of four spills occurred every day in the state. This marks an 87 percent increase since 2011 and a five percent increase over 2014.
With continued low oil and natural gas prices, New Mexico saw a decrease in production during 2015. And yet communities throughout the state continue to experience the impacts of drilling, from spills of crude oil and toxic wastewater to releases of natural gas, which primarily consists of methane.
In 2015, an average of 2,443 gallons of crude oil were spilled each day in New Mexico, along with 11,550 gallons of “produced water,” salty wastewater often laden with toxic chemicals. Emissions from the 363 reported releases of natural gas within the state were significant, roughly equivalent to driving 11,000 cars for a year.
While New Mexico continues to see increasing numbers of spills, the state lacks the capacity to adequately inspect wells. A 2015 report by Inside Energy found that New Mexico only had 14 inspectors to monitor more than 60,000 active wells, meaning wells are rarely, if ever, inspected.
Below are additional summary statistics for the reported spills that occurred in New Mexico in 2015.
Data on reported spills in 2015 was obtained from the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division’s online permitting database on May 2, 2016. Data for spills reported from 2011-2014 was obtained on April 27, 2016. A spill was defined as a release with an assigned incident number. Incidents with multiple materials spilled were counted as one spill. In 2015, 348 incidents in which more than one material were reported, thus the sum of spills broken down by material spilled is greater than the total number of incidents.