2023 Spills Tracker

May 8, 2024

2023 Spills Tracker

May 8, 2024

Overview

Across the West, spills from oil and gas extraction take a toll on lands, waters, wildlife, and communities. In Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming—the Mountain West’s top oil and gas-producing states—companies report thousands of spills each year, which release toxic materials such as crude oil and polluted water.

Each year, the Center for Western Priorities analyzes state-level data for wells on private, federal, and state land. All three states included in this report require oil and gas companies, or well operators, to file a report each time oil or drilling materials are spilled. New Mexico also requires operators to report incidents of routine and emergency methane venting and flaring (methane waste events).

Operators in New Mexico and Colorado reported a decrease in drilling-related spills in 2023 as compared to 2022, while the number of reported spills in Wyoming went up as compared to 2022. Operators in New Mexico also reported a sharp increase in the volume of methane wasted through flaring. 

Global energy prices affect the amount of oil and gas produced in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Often, but not always, an increase in production in response to global energy prices will help drive an increase in spills. Average global oil prices fell slightly in 2023 as compared to 2022. Oil and gas production was up about 15 percent in New Mexico, while oil production in Colorado and Wyoming was up less than 10 percent.

Over time, the amount of drilling-related liquid spilled in each state included in this report has gone down relative to the amount of oil produced annually. In Colorado, the amount of drilling-related liquid spilled annually has gone down slightly since 1999, while annual oil production has gone up steadily. In New Mexico, the amount of drilling-related liquid spilled annually has increased slightly since 2014, while annual oil production has increased steadily. In Wyoming, the amount of drilling-related liquid spilled annually has gone down  since 2017, while annual oil production has stayed about the same. This indicates that regulations meant to curb spills are effective and do not negatively impact production.

Get state-specific data

Colorado and New Mexico publish geographic information on spills within the state. Check out an interactive map of spills in the two states: