Comprehensive aerial survey quantifies high methane emissions from the New Mexico Permian Basin

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Yuanlei Chen , Evan David Sherwin , Elena S.F. Berman, Brian B. Jones, Matthew P. Gordon, Erin B. Wetherley, Eric A. Kort, Adam R Brandt 


Limiting emissions of climate-warming methane from oil and gas (O&G) is a major opportunity for short-term climate benefits. We deploy a basin-wide airborne survey of the New Mexico Permian Basin, spanning 35,923 km^2, 26,292 active wells, and over 15,000 km of natural gas pipelines using an independently-validated hyperspectral methane point source detection and quantification system. The airborne survey repeatedly visited over 90% of the active wells in the survey region throughout October 2018 to January 2020, totaling 117,658 well visits. We estimate total O&G methane emissions in this area at 194 (+72/-68, 95% CI) metric tonnes per hour (t/h), or 9.4% (+3.5%/-3.3%) of gross gas production. 50% of observed emissions come from large emission sources with persistence-averaged emission rates over 308 kg/h. This result emphasizes the importance of capturing low-probability, high-consequence events through basin-wide surveys when estimating regional O&G methane emissions.



Atmospheric Sciences, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology, Oil, Gas, and Energy, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Emissions detection, Monte Carlo simulation


Published: 2021-08-20 23:43

Last Updated: 2021-09-24 06:48

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:
Elena S.F. Berman, Brian B. Jones, Matthew P. Gordon, and Erin B. Wetherley are employees of Kairos Aerospace. The remaining authors have no competing interests to declare.

Data Availability (Reason not available):
The data required to reproduce key results in this article are available at While the remaining data from this study are not available for open release due to confidentiality concerns, Kairos Aerospace is committed to working with research groups studying methane emissions. Access may be granted, but must be done directly through Kairos Aerospace. Interested researchers should contact

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