2023 New Mexico Spills

May 8, 2024

2023 New Mexico Spills

May 8, 2024

Since 2014, the amount of drilling-related liquid spilled annually in New Mexico has increased slightly, while annual oil production has increased steadily. This indicates that regulations meant to curb spills are effective and do not negatively impact production.

Oil and gas producers in New Mexico reported a slight increase in spills in 2023 as compared to 2022. The amount of oil and drilling-related materials reported spilled in New Mexico decreased by 23 percent from 2022 to 2023, and the number of spills reported in New Mexico increased by one percent, from 1,463 to 1,479. The vast majority of reported spills—89 percent—occurred in Eddy and Lea counties, which are located in the oil-rich Permian Basin. 

Oil production in 2023 was up 15 percent compared to 2022, while the total volume of oil and drilling-related liquid spilled was down 23 percent and the total number of liquid spills in the state was up one percent.

Notably, NGL Water Solutions reported a 108 percent increase in the volume of drilling-related liquid it spilled in 2023 as compared to 2022. This was mainly the result of two big spills which made up 90 percent of the total liquid spilled by NGL. One spill was caused by a failed valve, the other by a fire. 

In 2021 and 2022, the state of New Mexico issued strong new methane pollution rules intended to address venting and flaring. The new rules require producers to report the amount of gas they produce and track what was lost. Routine flaring and venting are forbidden, and producers have to provide an explanation each time gas is burned off. Unfortunately, a lack of enforcement, coupled with trusting industry to police itself, has led to companies skirting the regulations. The numbers in this report are minimums, and the amount of methane wasted in New Mexico is likely much higher.

Methane production in 2023 was up 15 percent compared to 2022, while the total volume of methane wasted (vented and flared) was up 27 percent in 2023 compared to 2022. There were at least 49,739 incidents of flaring and 1,522 incidents of venting reported in 2023—a 33 percent and 12 percent decrease compared to 2022, respectively. Over 19 billion cubic feet of methane were flared (burned off), while at least 449 million cubic feet of methane were vented (released directly into the air), according to these reports. Fewer venting incidents and more flaring incidents suggest that companies are flaring more methane rather than venting it.

This increase in reported methane waste could be due to more stringent reporting requirements put in place by regulators, 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 global climate crisis while wasting a resource that could be used to lower energy costs for consumers.

Notably, Permian Resources Operating released 150 times more methane waste in 2023 as compared to 2022, an increase of over 3 billion cubic feet. It also reported the highest volume of methane waste of any company in 2023, and it was responsible for around 6,600 incidents of flaring. In early November 2023, Permian Resources Corp. completed an acquisition of Earthstone Energy, increasing the company’s number of wells by 70 percent and more than doubling its oil production as compared to 2022. 

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 reports prior to 2022 Therefore, data from this year’s report should not be used in combination with data from 2021 and older. Data should also not be compared across states, as reporting requirements and processes differ state to state.

2023 state spills trackers