SANTA FE — Methane sensors will be put on planes, trucks and atop towers in the West Texas and southeastern New Mexico desert in a new effort to gauge the extent of greenhouse gas emissions from surging oil and natural gas production, advocates with the Environmental Defense Fund announced.
The yearlong project in the Permian Basin petroleum production region involves researchers from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Wyoming, and low-flying planes from a Colorado-based atmospheric research company.
The project is separate from state efforts by Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham who already has sought technical suggestions from the oil industry, other environmental groups and other stakeholders hoping to use satellite and other data to analyze methane levels with the help of local supercomputing company Descartes Labs.
The Environmental Defense Fund said its project methods will be used because traditional estimates of methane emissions have not kept up with the rapid expansion petroleum exploration in the area spanning roughly 85,000 square miles, according to the group’s regulatory affairs director Jon Goldstein.
The Permian Basin is by many measures the country’s most active basin for oil and gas development, he said.