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New Mexico   New Mexico Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

Profile AnalysisPrint State Energy Profile
(overview, data, & analysis)



Last Updated: January 19, 2017

Overview

Petroleum, natural gas, and coal production make New Mexico the seventh-largest net supplier of energy to the nation.

New Mexico contains a wealth of fossil fuel, mineral, and renewable energy resources.1,2,3 It is home to the forested peaks and valleys of the southern Rocky Mountains, high plateaus of the Great Plains, and spectacular desert canyons and mesas.4 In addition to its dramatic vistas, the state has substantial oil and natural gas reserves, abundant sunshine, and nearly one-third of the nation's known uranium resources.5 The climate varies widely by location and elevation, from the deserts in the south, where temperatures in the triple digits are common, to snowy peaks in the north, where temperatures have fallen to 50 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.6 Although New Mexico is the fifth-largest state by area, it is the sixth-least densely populated.7,8 More than one in four residents live in the city of Albuquerque, and two-thirds of the state has fewer than 10 people per square mile.9,10,11

New Mexico is the seventh-largest net supplier of energy to the nation, primarily because of its petroleum, natural gas, natural gas liquids, and coal production.12,13 The state's largest employers are the health care, retail trade, hospitality, and educational service industries. Although not a large employer, the mining sector, especially the oil and gas industry, contributes significantly to the state's gross domestic product (GDP).14,15 More than one-third of New Mexico's land is federally administered, and the state is second only to Wyoming in the number of producing oil and natural gas leases on federal land.16,17

New Mexico's energy consumption per dollar of GDP and energy consumption per capita are both above the national average.18,19 Among the state's end-use sectors, the industrial sector is the largest consumer of energy, followed by the transportation sector.20 Despite the state's climate extremes, energy consumption per capita by the residential sector is among the lowest in the nation.21

Petroleum

The Permian Basin of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico is one of the most productive oil provinces in the nation.22 New Mexico's Permian Basin, with about 26,000 oil wells, contains 2 of the nation's 100 largest oil fields.23,24 Oil production in the state, which had been relatively steady for several decades, has more than doubled since 2009, and New Mexico's proved reserves have more than doubled during the same period.25,26 New Mexico is the largest petroleum producer among the eight Rocky Mountain states and produces more than 4% of the nation's crude oil.27

New production has come online as a result of the use of advanced drilling and oil recovery technologies in both the oil-rich Permian Basin in the southeastern part of the state and from oil-rich shales in the natural gas-rich San Juan Basin in the northwest.28,29 Horizontal drilling technology also has opened oil production in New Mexico's potash-mining region, on the western edge of the Permian Basin. New Mexico is the nation's largest supplier of potash, a fertilizer component. The potash industry had opposed traditional drilling, saying it posed safety threats to underground mines.30 Improved drilling techniques, including horizontal drilling, have allayed concerns.31 Pipeline operators have explored ways to accommodate New Mexico's increased crude oil production, including pipelines that were built, expanded, or reversed to take Permian crude oil production to Gulf Coast refineries.32 Petroleum output is filling existing pipelines, and New Mexico producers have turned to railroads to transport crude oil.33,34

New Mexico has two operating oil refineries.35 Local San Juan Basin crude oil, known as Four Corners Sweet, is the main feedstock for a small refinery in Gallup, New Mexico. It is the only active refinery in the Four Corners area and supplies that region with motor gasoline, diesel, propane, butane, and heavy fuel oils. Pipelines also deliver the refinery's products to other southwestern markets¬¬, including metropolitan Albuquerque, New Mexico, and northern Arizona.36 The state's larger refinery in Artesia is operated in conjunction with distillation facilities in Lovington, New Mexico, 65 miles away.37 The refinery can process both heavy sour and light sweet crude oils. Most of the crude oil processed at Artesia comes from the Permian Basin, but some is brought by pipeline from other areas, including Canada. The Artesia refinery serves markets in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.38 A third New Mexico refinery in Bloomfield stopped operating at the end of 2009 and was permanently closed in 2012.39

New Mexico's one ethanol refinery uses local sorghum, not feed corn, as its primary feedstock.

New Mexico requires the use of oxygenated motor gasoline in winter to reduce carbon monoxide emissions in the Albuquerque metropolitan area.40,41 Ethanol, the oxygenate blended with motor gasoline, is produced at one commercial-scale ethanol production plant in the state.42 That facility uses regionally grown, drought-resistant sorghum as its primary feedstock instead of feed corn, which is commonly used elsewhere.43

The transportation sector dominates petroleum consumption in New Mexico. Almost three-fourths of all petroleum used in the state goes to that sector. The industrial sector is a distant second, and the residential sector and commercial sector use only small amounts of petroleum. Even less is used by the electric power sector.44 Only about 0.1% of New Mexico households use petroleum products for home heating.45

Natural gas

The San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico contains one of the largest proved natural gas reserves in the United States. 46 Although New Mexico's total proved natural gas reserves are less than they were a decade ago, the state's proved shale gas reserves have risen dramatically over the same period. 47,48,49 Shale gas reserves are a small portion of the state's total proved natural gas reserves, but several New Mexico basins have shale gas potential.50,51 In addition, New Mexico is second only to Colorado in proved coalbed methane reserves.52

New Mexico is among the top 10 natural gas-producing states, accounting for about 4% of the nation's total.53 In 2015, the largest share of New Mexico's natural gas production came from natural gas wells.54,55 Natural gas from oil wells, shale gas wells, and coalbed methane wells also contributed to the state's total natural gas production.56,57,58 New Mexico's output from coalbed methane wells increased sharply from 2000 to 2007 but then declined.59 Although shale gas production has increased during the past decade, the state's total natural gas production has decreased.60,61

New Mexico produces more natural gas than it uses and sends natural gas through interstate pipelines primarily to Arizona and to markets on the West Coast.62 The Blanco Hub, located in the San Juan Basin, is a major connection and trading point for interstate pipelines carrying Rocky Mountain natural gas.63 New Mexico has only two underground storage fields with a combined storage capacity of 89 billion cubic feet of natural gas, about 1% of the nation's total.64,65

About one-fifth of the natural gas produced in New Mexico is consumed in the state. The electric power sector is the largest natural gas consumer in New Mexico, followed by the residential sector.66,67 Two-thirds of the state's households use natural gas as their primary energy source for home heating.68 New Mexico is among the top 10 states in the nation in per capita natural gas consumption.69,70

Coal

Coal has been mined in New Mexico since the 1850s. Although the state's coal production has trended downward in the past decade, the state continues to produce millions of tons of coal per year.71,72,73 New Mexico has coal deposits around the state, but the San Juan Basin in the state's northwest is the largest coal-bearing region and the only area currently being mined.74 There are three active coal mines in the Basin, one underground and two surface operations.75 Two of those mines are dedicated suppliers to neighboring coal-fired power plants.76 Almost all the coal mined in New Mexico is either burned in the state or shipped by rail to Arizona for power generation.77 New Mexico has about 1% of the nation's estimated recoverable coal reserves at producing mines.78 Most of the state's known reserves are located in the San Juan and Raton Basins in northern New Mexico.79

Electricity

New Mexico has the second-largest known uranium reserves in the nation.

Coal-fired power plants supply more than three-fifths of New Mexico's net electricity generation. Natural gas supplies most of the remaining generation, with renewable resources, primarily wind, providing almost all the rest.80 Although the state has no nuclear power plants, it has the second-largest known uranium reserves in the nation.81,82 Coal-fired generation in New Mexico is declining as federal air quality regulations have tightened and as California has decided to stop purchasing electricity generated from coal.83 Shutdown of two of the four coal-fired generating units at New Mexico's largest power plant is scheduled to occur by the end of 2017, and three of the five coal-fired electricity generating units at the state's second-largest coal-fired power plant were retired in 2013.84,85,86

Plans are under way to connect all three U.S. grids in New Mexico.

All of New Mexico's planned new electricity generating capacity will use renewable energy or natural gas.87 The state has recognized an economic interest in selling more electricity to other states, particularly electricity generated from renewable resources.88 New transmission projects are under way that take advantage of the state's location at the edge of the three U.S. electrical grids-the Eastern, Western, and Texas Interties-and of the Four Corners power trading hub, located at the Four Corners coal complex in northwestern New Mexico.89,90

New Mexico uses less electricity per capita than about two-thirds of the states and less than it produces, meaning that the state is a net supplier of electricity to neighboring states.91,92,93 New Mexico's residential, commercial, and industrial end-use sectors use roughly equal amounts of electricity, with the commercial sector consuming a slightly larger share than either the residential sector or the industrial sector.94 About one in six New Mexico households use electricity as the primary source for home heating. 95

Renewable energy

New Mexico possesses substantial renewable resources.96,97 The greatest wind potential is on the high plains in the eastern half of the state.98 In 2015, wind energy contributed 6% of New Mexico's electricity generation from more than 700 operating wind turbines. The state has more than 1,100 megawatts of installed electricity generating capacity from wind.99,100

In 2015, wind energy contributed 6% of New Mexico's electricity generation from more than 700 operating wind turbines.

New Mexico's climate is typified by abundant sunshine, giving the state some of the nation's best solar energy potential.101,102 The number of utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities in New Mexico is increasing, and so is the use of distributed (customer-sited, small-scale) solar generation, including larger corporate PV installations.103 State regulatory policies and incentives encourage the use of distributed solar technologies.104,105 In 2015, New Mexico ranked 13th in the nation in installed solar capacity with 406 megawatts.106 On a per-capita basis, New Mexico was among the top 10 states nationally in solar electric capacity in 2015.107

New Mexico has the sixth-largest geothermal resource in the nation. Most of those resources are located in the southwestern and north-central parts of the state.108 Geothermal energy has been used for greenhouse agriculture in New Mexico, much of it for the state's famed green chilies, as well as for aquaculture. Geothermal energy has also been used for space heating, district heating, and heating soaking tubs and swimming pools at several spas in the state. In December 2013, New Mexico's first utility-scale geothermal power plant came online, making New Mexico one of seven states with utility-scale geothermal generation.109,110,111 The power plant, located in the Animas Valley in southwestern New Mexico, had an initial electricity generating capacity of up to 4 megawatts. A planned expansion of the facility is in development and will provide another 6 megawatts of geothermal generating capacity.112 New Mexico also has small amounts of utility-scale electricity generation from hydropower and biomass.113

With a relatively small state population and low electricity demand, New Mexico's solar, wind, and geothermal projects need more transmission capacity to take the electricity that renewable projects generate to power markets in the Southwest.114,115 Transmission projects are under development that are designed to allow delivery of renewably generated electricity within New Mexico and to other western states.116,117,118,119,120 All of these projects will enable the development of renewable energy resources in New Mexico by providing them with access to the nation's interstate power grids.121

The New Mexico renewable portfolio standard requires investor-owned electric utilities to acquire 20% of electricity sold in-state from renewable energy sources by 2020. Of that 20%, at least half must come from solar and wind energy, and the balance must include shares from several other renewable sources, including distributed generation. Rural electric cooperatives are required to obtain 10% of their sales from renewable sources by 2020.122 New Mexico has regulatory policies that include net metering, solar easements, and interconnection standards, as well as a number of financial incentives that encourage renewable generation.123

Energy on tribal lands

Two of New Mexico's largest reservations are in the oil- and gas-rich Four Corners region of northwestern New Mexico.

Tribal lands cover more than one-tenth of New Mexico, giving the state the third largest amount of tribal acreage-after Arizona and Alaska-among all states.124 Two of New Mexico's largest reservations-the Navajo Reservation and the Jicarilla Apache Reservation-are in the oil- and gas-rich Four Corners region of northwestern New Mexico.125 The Jicarilla Apache Reservation, on the east flank of the San Juan Basin, a prolific hydrocarbon-producing area within the Four Corners region, is the largest mineral rights owner in the basin after the federal government. The reservation has within its boundaries several oil and gas fields.126 The Navajo Nation, whose reservation is in three states, owns and operates oil and gas interests on its reservation lands in the San Juan Basin in New Mexico and operates a pipeline between New Mexico and Utah.127 In 2013, the Navajo Nation also purchased the Navajo Mine, a coal mine located on reservation land in New Mexico. The mine is the source of all the coal used by the Four Corners Generating Station, one of the largest power plants in New Mexico, which is also on the reservation. Some of the proceeds from the Navajo Nation's coal mine are to be used to develop renewable and alternative energy projects both on and off the Navajo Nation reservation.128,129

New Mexico reservations have abundant renewable energy potential, including solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass resources.130 All 23 federally recognized tribes in the state have potential geothermal resources on their lands.131 Although New Mexico's greatest wind energy resources are in the east, outside of tribal lands, several ridges on the state's reservations also have some wind energy potential.132,133 New Mexico's solar resources are among the best in the nation.134 Several tribes have been exploring distributed generation using solar PV panels. In 2015, the Santo Domingo Tribe received a grant to install a 115-kilowatt PV system to power the Tribe's community water pump and water treatment facility.135 New Mexico tribes also have biomass resources; New Mexico is among the top 10 states with the largest concentrations of tribal forests.136

Endnotes

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8 U.S. Census Bureau, Resident Population Data (Text Version), Population Density, 2010 Census.
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10 U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census: New Mexico Profile.
11 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Table GCT-PH1, Population, Housing Units, Area, and Density: 2010, United States, County by State; and for Puerto Rico, 2010 Census Summary File 1.
12 U.S. EIA, State Energy Production Estimates 1960 Through 2014, Table P3, Energy Production and Consumption Estimates in Trillion Btu, 2014.
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16 U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Public Land Statistics, 2015 (May 2016), Table 1-3, Mineral and Surface Acres Administered by the Bureau of Land Management, Fiscal Year 2015, p. 7.
17 U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Oil and Gas Statistics, Table 6, Number of Producing Leases on Federal Lands (October 29, 2015).
18 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 Through 2014, DOE/EIA-0214(2014) (June 2016), Table C12, Total Energy Consumption Estimates, Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Energy Consumption Estimates per Real Dollar of GDP, Ranked by
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19 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 Through 2014, DOE/EIA-0214(2014) (June 2016), Table C13, Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2014.
20 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 Through 2014, DOE/EIA-0214(2014) (June 2016), Table C10, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2014.
21 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 Through 2014, DOE/EIA-0214(2014) (June 2016), Table C13, Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2014.
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40 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, State Winter Oxygenated Fuel Program Requirements for Attainment or Maintenance of CO NAAQS, EPA420-B-08-006 (January 2008), p. 3.
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