At oil fields and refineries, tall flames sometimes shoot up from vertical pipes as producers burn off natural gas.

Natural gas is a byproduct of oil production. And while it’s a useful resource, it’s not always profitable for oil producers to collect and transport it. So sometimes they just release it or burn it off.

Called venting and flaring, these practices add potent climate-warming gases to the atmosphere. So New Mexico is stepping up its efforts to stop them.

The state recently passed a new rule that requires oil producers to capture waste natural gas.

“The rule will lead to a 98% gas capture in the oil and gas sector by 2026,” says Sarah Cottrell Propst, cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department.

She says the new rule is unusual because it also applies to operators in the middle of the supply chain. In other words, it affects those running wells, pipelines, and production facilities.

“So we think that this this will be a nation-leading rule for the industry,” Propst says.

She says the goal is for the industry to be measuring its emissions and making consistent progress over the next few years to bring those emissions down.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media