Oil and gas industry, environmentalists spar over methane emissions in New Mexico
While oil and gas production boomed in New Mexico and the Permian Basin, industry reports suggested that methane emissions declined as company’s began using improved technology to mitigate the waste.
In its “Methane Mitigation Road Map,” published on June 24, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) reported oil and gas methane emission declines by 14 percent during 1990 and 2017, while oil production grew by 80 percent and gas production by 50 percent.
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The "road map" also called for “flexible” regulations between basins and oil and gas producers to avoid a “one-size-fits-all” regulatory environment, as production in the Permian uses mostly horizontal drilling but the San Juan Basin holds more traditional wells.
“The production profiles of each basin are so vastly different, which in turn dictates the types of operations and equipment used,” read the report. “These differences should be recognized when examining any potentially prescriptive standards.”
In New Mexico, methane emission from oil and gas operations fell by about 50 percent from about 400,000 metric ton in 2011 to about 200,000 in 2017.
The Permian Basin in the southeast showed a decline in methane emissions of about 37 percent from 80,000 metric ton to about 50,000.
Emissions in the San Juan Basin in the northwest fell by about 50 percent, per the report, from 300,000 metric ton to about 150,000.
Meanwhile, production grew throughout New Mexico from about 300,000 barrels of oil equivalent in 2011 (BOEs) to 400,000 in 2017.
In the Permian, production grew from about 140,000 BOEs in 2011 to about 275,000 in 2017.
Ryan Flynn, NMOGA executive director said cutting emissions is a top priority of the industry in protecting the environment while ensuring continued economic growth.
He said collaboration across the private and public sectors, and market-driven solutions, could help mitigate natural gas waste while oil and production continues to climb throughout the state.
“There is nothing we value more than safeguarding the people and places we care about the most, and that means working continuously to protect the environment and reduce and control methane emissions,” Flynn said.
“We know that we have a responsibility to reduce our methane emissions and this report underscores we are in fact reducing emissions through responsible operations.
The “road map” included analysis of data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, scaled down to the state level.
Previous reports were by basin, read a NMOGA news release, which often cross state lines.
“New Mexico’s future shines brighter with a strong oil and natural gas industry. We are committed to safely and responsibly producing the energy we need along with critical funds and tax revenue that supports our communities, public schools, and first responders,” said NMOGA Chairman Claire Chase.
“A smart and balanced regulatory framework allows us grow our economy and protect our environment at the same time.”
But environmentalist groups challenged the data in NMOGA’s report and called for stricter regulations.
The Environmental Defense Fund questioned the EPA data as “known to underreport” emissions, as it relies on self-reporting from producers as only includes those which emit at least 25,000 metric tones of carbon dioxide equivalent per basin.
Jon Goldstein, director of regulatory affairs at the Fund said current regulations allow for more than 1 million tons of methane of methane emissions annually, more than five times what NMOGA’s data suggested
That meant $43 million in lost revenue to the state, he said.
Goldstein called on stronger regulations for emissions, pointing to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s recent signing of the Energy Transition, which called for New Mexico to use completely carbon-free energy by 2045, and align with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
“As the state’s rule development process continues we stand prepared to work with all parties to develop rules that meet the governor’s vision and deliver the methane pollution reductions needed to protect future generations of New Mexicans,” Goldstein said.
And Bruce Baizel, Energy Program Director at Washington D.C.-based Earthworks said the NMOGA report proves that stricter methane regulations are necessary to prevent climate change and protect public health.
"The big news today is that the leading industry lobby group NMOGA finally admitted that methane pollution rules are necessary in New Mexico,” he said.
“Their report, however, suggests that they are still at odds with everyone else who agrees that the rules New Mexicans deserve and urgently need are the most effective, robust safeguards for health and climate."
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Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, firstname.lastname@example.org or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.