2022 New Mexico Spills
Apr 10, 2023
Oil and gas producers in New Mexico reported an increase in spills in 2022. The amount of oil and drilling-related materials reported spilled in New Mexico increased by 16 percent from 2021 to 2022, and the number of spills reported in New Mexico increased by six percent, from 1,368 to 1,455. The vast majority of reported spills—91 percent—occurred in Eddy and Lea counties, which are located in the oil-rich Permian Basin.
Oil production in 2022 was up 23 percent compared to 2021, while the total volume of oil and drilling-related liquid spilled was up 16 percent and the total number of liquid spills in the state was up six percent. This indicates that despite an increase in spills in 2022, New Mexico has slightly improved in terms of the rate of liquid spills relative to total production.
Notably, Occidental Petroleum, also known as Oxy, reported a 92 percent increase in the volume of drilling-related liquid it spilled in 2022 as compared to 2021. Over the same time period, Occidental’s profits increased seven-fold from 2021 to 2022, going from $1.5 billion to $12.5 billion thanks to surging oil and gas prices.
In May 2021, New Mexico adopted new rules that prohibit routine venting and flaring and require operators to achieve a 98 percent gas capture rate by 2026. New Mexico also changed reporting requirements for methane waste in May 2021, requiring producers to report all flaring and venting incidents. For the purposes of this report, the number of venting and flaring incidents and the amount of methane waste reported in New Mexico from July 1 to December 31 in 2021 was compared to the amount of methane waste reported over the same period in 2022.
Methane production in 2022 was up 17 percent compared to 2021, while the total volume of methane wasted (vented and flared) was up 30 percent in 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. There were at least 19,187 incidents of flaring and 1,169 incidents of venting reported in 2022—a 65 and 18 percent increase over 2022, respectively. Over 14 billion cubic feet of methane were flared, while at least 349 million cubic feet of methane were vented, according to these reports.
This increase in reported methane waste could be due to more stringent reporting requirements put in place by regulators in 2021, or it could indicate an increase in actual methane waste. Regardless, the sheer volume of reported methane waste in New Mexico shows just how much the state is contributing to the climate crisis while wasting a resource that could be used to lower energy costs for consumers.
Notably, Earthstone Operating reported a 3,768 percent increase in methane waste in the second half of 2022 as compared to the same time period in 2021, an increase of 988 million cubic feet. It also reported the highest volume of methane waste of any company for the second half of 2022. Earthstone’s profits increased tenfold from 2021 to 2022, going from $61 million to $650 million.
A few notes about the data
Since spill data is self-reported by the oil and gas companies responsible for the spills, the true number of spills and volume of spilled material in New Mexico is likely higher than those included in this report. Finally, the methodology used to calculate this year’s report differs from that of past years’ reports. Therefore, data from this year’s report should not be used in combination with data from prior years.