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New Mexico Deploys Robots To Tackle Methane Emissions

New Mexico, which shares the Permian shale play with Texas, is using satellites and artificial intelligence to track methane emissions as part of plans to map these and take steps to reduce them, Bloomberg reports.

The technology will be used in a model developed by Descartes Labs that will make possible the tracking and quantification of methane emissions from New Mexico’s blossoming shale oil industry.

“We’ve got one of the largest methane hotspots in the country,” Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham told Bloomberg, adding it had taken the industry “too long to accept responsibility and do something meaningful about it.”

Lujan Grisham made two pledges on the campaign trail that helped her win the vote. One of these had to do with curbing methane emissions from the oil patch. The other was a pledge to make the state’s electricity emissions-free by 2045.

According to plans, the data generated by the satellites and artificial intelligence systems will be made available to the public and shares with the oil industry as well to help them manage their emissions. The data, according to the Bloomberg report, will also be useful for state inspectors responding to potential problems with these emissions.

Methane is the main component of natural gas, which is released alongside oil in both conventional and shale oil wells. Drillers in the Permian focus on oil rather than gas but the gas gets released anyway and it either gets flared or wasted. Flaring has been on the rise in the Permian for lack of gas transportation and storage infrastructure. Methane emissions are also on the rise: a recent Rystad Energy report suggested these may have reached an all-time high in the second quarter.

New Mexico has a target of 45-percent lower greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels. Meanwhile, the oil industry in the state is growing fast and will need $174 billion in new investments by 2030 to maintain this growth, seemingly on a direct collision course with the Governor’s emission-cutting plans.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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