NASA’s new space mission captures methane superemitters near Carlsbad

CARLSBAD, NM (KRQE) – Researchers were studying how dust affects the climate in the summer when they encountered a “super-emitter” of methane in the southeastern part of the state. The information was made public, and now the state wants to know where it came from.

On Aug. 26, while surveying a source of mineral dust at Earth’s surface, a NASA camera captured a large methane leak near Carlsbad.

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

The plume vented more than 40,300 pounds of methane per hour at the Perm site. Environmentalists said that equates to about a hundred emissions from cars driven every hour for a year.

“This example is larger than the examples we have seen in the air campaigns. That being said, for example, it’s not the largest mission we’ve ever observed from space,” Thorpe said.

Kayley Shoup, a member of environmental advocacy Citizens Caring for the Future, said this super emitter is of concern to people living in the southeastern state.

“We cannot allow these things to happen not only for the health of my community that I call home, but also for the health of the state, the health of the planet,” she shared.

The researchers said they will continue to share these types of results with oil and gas operators and scientific organizations to better understand the impact of these emissions on our climate.

Thorpe said: “The real aim is just to shed light on the emissions. We’re not just talking about methane emissions from oil and gas. We talk about methane emissions from different emission sectors like landfill, agriculture sector, it’s kind of sector agnostic.”

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

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