Why energy companies are drilling for a greenhouse gas in New Mexico
Trapped underground in the sandstone of northeastern New Mexico sits one of the largest naturally occurring carbon dioxide reservoirs in the nation called the Bravo Dome.
The 1,400 square mile gas field in rural Harding and Union counties is one of a handful of its kind in the United States. They make up a small but critical piece of the nation’s oil drilling operations — one that has bipartisan support and could increase under the Biden administration.
Most of the carbon dioxide extracted from places like the Bravo Dome is piped to oil fields where it’s injected into wells to force out the last dregs of oil in a process called enhanced oil recovery. However, carbon dioxide extraction raises scores of environmental and climate issues — including the potential for massive releases of a greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. And the companies that drill for the gas in New Mexico have questionable records when it comes to dealing with landowners.
Why drill for CO2? Democrats and Republicans alike have supported enhanced oil recovery, or EOR, in which carbon dioxide and water are pumped into wells to help extract remaining oil to the surface.