Hidden Menace: Massive methane leaks speed up climate change

A flare burns off methane and other hydrocarbons as oil pumpjacks operate in the Permian Basin in Midland, Texas, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. Massive amounts of methane are venting into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations across the Permian Basin, new aerial surveys show. The emission endanger U.S. targets for curbing climate change. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

LENORAH, Texas (AP) - To the naked eye, the Mako Compressor Station outside the dusty West Texas crossroads of Lenorah appears unremarkable, similar to tens of thousands of oil and gas operations scattered throughout the oil-rich Permian Basin.

What's not visible through the chain-link fence is the plume of invisible gas, primarily methane, billowing from the gleaming white storage tanks up into the cloudless blue sky.

The Mako station, owned by a subsidiary of West Texas Gas Inc., was observed releasing an estimated 870 kilograms of methane – an extraordinarily potent greenhouse gas - into the atmosphere each hour. That's the equivalent impact on the climate of burning seven tanker trucks full of gasoline every day.

But Mako's outsized emissions aren't illegal, or even regulated. And it was only one of 533 methane "super emitters" detected during a 2021 aerial survey of the Permian conducted by Carbon