CARLSBAD, N.M. (KRQE) – Researchers were investigating how dust impacts the climate over the summer when they came across a methane ‘super-emitter’ in the southeast part of the state. The information was published, and now, the state wants to know where it is coming from.

During an Earth’s surface mineral dust source investigation, a NASA camera captured a large methane leak near Carlsbad on August 26. 

Andrew Thorpe, a research technologist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explained, “The methane plume that we observed in the Permian Basin was a large plume; it was over two miles in extent.”

The plume was venting more than 40,300 pounds of methane per hour at the Permian site. Environmentalists said that equals about a hundred car emissions driven for a year every hour.

“This example is on the larger side of the examples that we saw in the airborne campaigns. That being said, it’s not the largest mission we’ve ever observed from space as an example,” Thorpe said. 

Kayley Shoup, a member of the environmental advocacy group Citizens Caring for the Future, said this super-emitter is concerning for people living in the southeast part of the state.

“We can’t have these things happening not only for the health of my, you know, community that I call home, but then also the health of the state, the health of the planet,” she shared. 

Researchers stated they will continue to share these kinds of results with oil and gas operators and scientific organizations to better understand the impact these emissions have on our climate.

Thorpe said, “The real goal is just to shed light on emissions. We’re not talking about only methane emissions from oil and gas. We’re talking about methane emissions from different emission sectors like landfills, the agricultural sector, it’s sort of agnostic of sector.”

Shoup explained she’s glad that this data is being shared and can be used to show the need for more monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions with thousands of wells in the area. She goes on to say, “Something we’re pushing for in the near future is making sure that these environmental agencies have budgets that are big enough to actually do this job, and that is the responsibility of the state legislature.”


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Operators in the area have been asked to provide data as the Oil and Conservation Division (OCD) is investigating the methane leak, according to Division Director Adrienne Sandoval. The OCD has performed many site inspections as part of that effort. If they find someone is responsible for this leak, they could face large fines.