According to publicly available data from the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division, there were 1,310 reported spills in New Mexico in 2016, an 11 percent decrease from the previous year. The vast majority of spills, 83 percent, took place in Lea and Eddy Counties.
COG Operating LLC reported 153 spills, the most of any company, followed by Occidental Permian LTD, and OXY USA Inc. Combined, the top five companies were responsible for nearly 40 percent of all reported releases.
Amid continued low oil and natural gas prices, New Mexico saw a slight decrease in gross withdrawals of natural gas and a slight increase in oil production in 2016. The number of new drilling permits decreased, with 1,097 permits approved in 2016, compared to 1,613 the year before.
In 2016, an average of 1,609 gallons of crude oil were spilled each day in New Mexico, along with 9,052 gallons of “produced water,” salty wastewater often laden with toxic chemicals.
Leaks from natural gas, primarily comprised of methane, remained significant. Emissions from the 381 reported releases totaled 848,144 Mcf, enough to power roughly 4,900 homes for a year.
Below are additional summary statistics for the reported spills that occurred in New Mexico in 2016.
Data on reported spills in 2016 was obtained from the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division’s online permitting database on March 14, 2017. A spill was defined as a release with an assigned incident number. Incidents with multiple materials spilled were counted as one spill. Many incidents reported more than one released material, thus the sum of spills broken down by material spilled is greater than the total number of incidents. To determine percent change from the previous year, the number of reported spills in 2016 was compared to data from the Center for Western Priorities’ 2015 New Mexico Oil and Gas Toxic Release Tracker.