New Mexico moves up to No. 5 in U.S. oil reserves


UP TO NO. 5: An annual study shows New Mexico increased its oil reserves 11.4 percent in the space of one year. Photo by Rob Nikolewski.

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

Move over, Oklahoma. New Mexico has regained its position as the fifth-richest oil state in the country.

In an annual report of the top 10 oil states put together by the financial website 24/7 Wall St., New Mexico supplanted the Sooner State with 965 million barrels of proved oil reserves.

That’s an 11.4 percent increase over the previous year’s total of 866 million barrels. “A new oil field and 170 extensions in 2012 also buoyed oil production,” wrote the editors at 24/7 Wall St., who based their survey on numbers compiled at the end of 2012 by the International Energy Agency.

In last year’s report, New Mexico slipped from No. 5 to No. 6, but the oil boom in the Permian Basin, which extends from West Texas into eastern New Mexico, put the Land of Enchantment back into the fifth-highest spot.

“I’m not surprised at all,” said Dan Steffens, president of the Energy Prospectus Group in Houston. “You’re getting production of 1,000-1,500 barrels a day in the Delaware Basin,” which is located in the western edge of the Permian Basin.

Oklahoma actually saw its oil reserves increase by 55 million barrels in 2012, but it couldn’t keep up with the increase New Mexico made.

Here’s a look at the Top 10:

North Dakota made the biggest gain over last year’s numbers, leaping past California and Alaska to take over the No. 2 spot. North Dakota is home to the Bakken shale formation, which has proved to be one of the world’s most productive oil fields due in large part to advances in hydraulic fracturing.

“This is all technology driven,” Steffens said of the boom in the Permian. “It’s all horizontal drilling that’s doing it. That and tight (geological) formations.”

Overall, U.S. states turned in a banner year, combining to amass more than 30.5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, up 15 percent from the end of 2011.

“As new technologies make oil easier and more affordable to extract, the United States is poised to become the world’s leading oil producer as soon as 2015,” 24/7 Wall St. said.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski