Energy & Natural Resources

New Mexico is blessed with plentiful natural resources making it a large net exporter of energy.   Mineral extraction has been the primary, sustained economic driver for the state for at least 150 years.  The oil and gas sector alone returns more than $2 billion in taxes and other revenue to the state annually.  Mining employs more than 22,000 statewide.

The San Juan Basin, located in northwest New Mexico and southwest Colorado, is the largest proven natural gas reserve in the country.  This 26,000 square mile geologic feature is a major source of oil and gas, and it provides approximately 70 percent of the gas produced in New Mexico.

The Permian Basin covers southeastern New Mexico.  It is estimated that only 27 percent of the available resource has been extracted from the Basin, and that there are 45 billion barrels of residual oil and 30 billion barrels of mobile oil available today.

New Mexico Energy Production in Numbers:

  Production Volume Ranking
Total Energy 2,258 trillion Btu 10th (2010 annual)
Crude Oil 6,578 (thousand barrels) 6th (April 2012)
Natural Gas 1,292,185 (million cubic feet) 6th (2010 annual)
Coal 20,991 (thousand short tons) 13th (2010 annual)

Electricity from New Mexico is distributed to consumers in Texas, Arizona, California, and Utah.   Prices within the state are extremely competitive.

New Mexico also produces more potash than any other state and is 4th in copper production.  

The Bravo Dome carbon dioxide gas field, located in Harding and Union Counties in northeast New Mexico, covers about 800,000 acres.  It is estimated to contain more than 16 trillion cubic feet of carbon dioxide.  The CO₂ is used primarily for enhanced oil recovery.

Renewable Energy

Renewable EnergyNew Mexico has tremendous potential for renewable energy production, particularly solar and wind.  In 2011 New Mexico ranked fourth in the nation in installed solar photovoltaic capacity, which increased from 43 megawatts in 2010 to 116 megawatts in 2011. The state is second only to Arizona in days of sunshine.  Wind is currently the largest renewable energy generator in the state, 8.6 percent of the 10.1 percent generated by renewable's.  

The state has an aggressive renewable portfolio standard that requires investor owned utilities to generate a portion of their energy from renewable sources: 15% by 2015 and 20% by 2020.  New Mexico offers several tax incentives specific to the advanced energy industry.  


BiofuelsFieldNew Mexico has a diverse capacity for enabling the growth of the biofuels industry, from crop production to refining. Abengoa Bioenergy, in Portales (New Mexico), operates an ethanol production plant which produces 30 million gallons of ethanol a year from sorghum.  Sapphire Energy has a 300-acre project in Luna County, near the Mexican border, which will produce and extract “green crude” from algae as a substitute for gasoline for ground and air transportation uses.  Joule Unlimited Inc. has a facility under construction in Hobbs, in southeast New Mexico, utilizing a new technology that turns sunlight, saline water and carbon dioxide into refinery-ready ethanol and diesel.  Incitor Inc., a new company in Albuquerque, has developed a chemical process which can convert algae, wood and other plants into biodiesel and gasoline for $2 per gallon.


New Mexico is home to two Department of Energy-funded laboratories: Los Alamos and Sandia.  New Mexico Tech and New Mexico State University also conduct research in many fields of energy.

Sandia National Laboratories (SNL)

Sandia National LaboratoriesThe Energy Security program (download PDF) area works to reduce the risks of trans-formative energy solutions that will enhance the nation’s security and economic prosperity.  Energy security research at Sandia seeks to address key challenges facing our nation and the world. Sandia works with the energy industry to improve current hardware and develop the next generation of technologies to extract or produce energy.

The Energy, Climate, and Infrastructure Security (ECIS) Strategic Management Unit (SMU) spearheads research into energy alternatives that will help the nation reduce its dependence on oil and coal and to combat the effects of climate change. Sandia’s long history with geothermal, solar, and wind energy research has seen a vast increase in effort and intensity over the past 15 years and has also been supplemented in recent years with efforts in biologically based fuels: biomass from nonfood plant sources and algae—both of which can be grown on land unsuitable for farming.

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)
Los Alamos NationalLabLANL’s Applied Energy Program Office conducts research in fuel cells; hydrogen storage and production; hydrogen safety codes and standards; carbon sequestration; unconventional fossil fuels; carbon dioxide separation and capture; superconductivity; infrastructure analysis; biofuels; energy storage; and geothermal energy.  The Tech Transfer office assists industry in accessing LANL research.

New Mexico Tech

New Mexico TechFormerly the Institute of Mining and Technology, NM Tech’s extensive research programs include the Petroleum Research and Recovery Center and the New Mexico Center for Energy Policy.

The Petroleum Recovery Research Center (PRRC) of New Mexico Tech is regarded both nationally and internationally as one of the nation's leading petroleum research centers. PRRC was established by the New Mexico State Legislature in 1977 to conduct both basic and applied research designed to improve recovery of petroleum and natural gas.
PRRC's research program emphasizes the development of improved oil recovery processes that can be applied to many of the older oil fields.  
PRRC program studies include:

  • Fundamental research on rock/fluid interactions and their influence on oil recovery, with emphasis on studies of wettability alteration and asphaltenes;
  • Enhanced CO2 flooding with emphasis on the mechanisms that control injectivity;
  • Using gels to reduce water production and increase reservoir sweep efficiency;
  • Using artificial intelligence and geostatistics for improved reservoir characterization;
  • Using a modified reverse osmosis system for treatment of produced water;
  • Development of a Geographical Information System to include produced water quality data, pipeline infrastructure and corrosion information, site risk assessment tools and other operational information via the Internet.
  • Photonic and fiber optic physical and chemical sensors for energy generation, environmental management, chemical process control, and homeland security applications.

NewMexicoAggiesNew Mexico State University (NMSU)
NMSU has developed an international track record in the study and development of photovoltaics and other sources of alternative energy, including fuel cell design. Additionally, the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, administered by NMSU, provides expertise on nuclear waste disposal, an issue of concern nationwide. By creating an Institute for Sustainability of Water, Energy, and Land, NMSU will ramp up its multidisciplinary energy research and technology development programs in renewable and nuclear sources of energy to serve the entire Southwest. Specifically, NMSU will carry out research on the following:

  • Development, testing and validation of photovoltaic energy including flexible solar cell systems
  • Education and training of students in technologies related to sustainable energy
  • Educational and outreach services to energy, telecommunications industries, and regulatory commissions across the U.S.
  • Provision of an adequate and secure energy supply
  • Electric delivery systems technology development and implementation
  • Fuel cell design, hydrogen storage, and membrane durability
  • Organic waste utilization
  • Distributed energy
  • Nuclear energy research and application
  • Education of the public in the use of alternative sources of energy
  • Education and training of students in technologies related to sustainable energy
  • NMSU is part of the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bio products, a consortium of universities and research institutions awarded $49 million by DOE to commercialize algae into a biofuel