To the naked eye, the Mako compressor station behind the dusty intersection of Lenora in West Texas looks unremarkable, similar to the tens of thousands of oil and gas operations scattered throughout the oil-rich Permian Basin. What is not visible through the chain-link fence is the plume of invisible gas, mainly methane, that escapes from the gleaming white vaults into the cloudless blue sky. From the report: The Mako station, owned by a subsidiary of West Texas Gas, was found to be releasing about 870 kilograms of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere every hour. That’s the equivalent climate impact of burning seven tanks full of gasoline every day.
But the Mako’s oversized emissions aren’t illegal or even regulated. And it was just one of 533 methane “superemitters” discovered during an aerial survey of the Permian in 2021 by Carbon Mapper, a partnership of university researchers and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The team documented the vast amounts of methane released into the atmosphere by oil and gas production in the Permian, a 250-mile-wide dry expanse along the Texas-New Mexico border that was the floor of a shallow sea a billion years ago. Hundreds of these sites blow the gas over and over again. Constant leaks, downpours, failure to fix.