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Map of oil and gas activity in Michigan

New Michigan Map Shows off New FracMapper Functionality

This page was updated in January 2018 to fix the embed code in the map.

Recently, FracTracker has been getting requests from residents in many locations to map large-scale oil and gas operations in their area.  We now have content for Michigan, which happens to correspond with the release of additional map export functionality on FracMapper:

View map fullscreen | How FracTracker maps work

About the Michigan Data

Each state is different in the data it makes available to the public, so it is always interesting to take a look at how new areas approach their duties of data transparency.  After having recently produced maps for New Mexico and Colorado, I confess to being excited to work with data from a state that embraces designating locations in latitude and longitude (and doesn’t release data only with the archaic PLSS notation).  But then, sometimes mapmakers are easy to please.

Far more important is the data made available for wells related to oil and gas development by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  Not only does it include the standard well type designations of “oil” or “gas”, but it also includes observation wells, storage wells, and injection wells.  Altogether, there are 15 categories of well types.

As with many states, there are so many legacy oil and gas wells that mapping them all would overwhelm the online mapping software servers with data requests from over 63,000 wells.  For that reason, the wells are restricted to those marked as being horizontally drilled, which reduces that number to 1,562.  That should include most of the unconventional oil and gas extraction activity from recent years.

Also included in the data are point locations for the tops and bottoms of the well bore, which could be used in the future to map a generalized path of the horizontal wells beneath the surface.

FracMapper Export Feature Enhancement

The Michigan map is the first one produced with our new “Save as PDF” tool, which can be found in the “Export” toolbar.

The "Save as PDF" tool in the the Export Menu creates as landscape oriented 8.5" x 11" document, complete with title, scale bar, and legend. The legend contains only those map icons that are displayed in the view of the PDF.

The “Save as PDF” tool in the the Export Menu creates as landscape oriented 8.5″ x 11″ document, complete with title, scale bar, and legend. The legend contains only those map icons that are displayed in the view of the PDF.

Please note that if you wish to make multiple PDF files from the same map, it is currently required to refresh the webpage containing the map, or it will continue to produce the same map.

In the coming weeks, this functionality will be added to the other FracMapper entries that have already been published.  We are also hoping to roll out additional functionality in the near future.

NM Shale Map Shows Contamination Events

Recently, the FracTracker Alliance has gotten several requests from residents of New Mexico for maps showing the large scale drilling operations in that state.  As we began to look around for data sources, we encountered an interesting document from 2008:

This 2008 document from the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division shows instances of ground water contamination by oil and gas pits in the state.

This 2008 document from the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division shows instances of ground water contamination by oil and gas pits in the state.

There isn’t much description on the document or the New Mexcio Oil Conservation Division (NMOCD) page that links to it, however, the subject matter is straightforward enough.  Altogether, there are 369 instances of ground water contamination documented by a New Mexico governmental agency from dozens of drilling operators throughout the Land of Enchantment.

Ground Water Contamination Controversy

Since the title of document indicates that the agents causing contamination are “pit substances”, this does not technically indicate that hydraulic fracturing is to blame.  This is largely a matter of definition, but it is an important one to understand, because the word “fracking” means something different to industry insiders than it does to the general public, and the issue of ground water contamination is a point of considerable debate.

Technically speaking,  hydraulic fracturing only refers to one stage of the well completion process, in which water, sand, and chemicals are injected into the oil or gas well, and pressurized to break up the carbon-rich rock formation to allow the desired product to flow better.Most people (and many media outlets) consider “fracking” to be the entire production process for wells that require such treatment, from the development of the several acre well pad, through the drilling, the completion, flaring, waste disposal, and integration of the product to pipelines.  (It is due to these competing definitions that the FracTracker Alliance goes out of our way to avoid the term “fracking”.)

All of this has lead to some carefully worded statements that seem to exhonerate hydraulic fracturing, despite suspected contamination events reported in Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and elsewhere.  Of course, from the perspective of residents relying on a contaminated aquifer, it hardly matters whether the water was contaminated by hydraulic fracturing, leeching from the associated pits, problems with well casing or cement, or re-pressurized abandoned wells.  A fouled aquifer is a fouled aquifer.

This document does not specify what was contained in the pits, only that they are contamination events.  Therefore, we do not know what stage of the process the contaminant came from, only that it was believed by the state of New Mexico to have originated from a pit, and not the well bore itself.

Notes About Location Information

It is important to note that the location information is not exact, but are generally within 0.72 miles of the specified location.  The reason for this is that the location information was provided using the Public Land Survey System (PLSS).  The brainchild of Thomas Jefferson, the PLSS was the method used to grid out the western frontier, and it is still used as a legal land description in many western states.  Essentially, the land was divided into townships that were six miles by six miles, which was then broken into 36 sections, each of which is one square mile.  FracTracker has calculated the centroid of each section, which could be up to 0.71 miles from the corner of the same section if the shape is perfectly square.

The PLSS system was used to grid out most of New Mexico, but some portions of the state had already been well defined by Spanish and Mexcian land grants.  Aside from being a fascinating historical anecdote, it does have an effect on the mapping of these pits.  In the image of the table above, note that the “Florance Z 40” well does not have any values in the location column.  As a result, we were not able to map this pit.  Altogether, 11 of the 369 pits identified as causing groundwater contamination could not be mapped.


New Mexico Shale Viewer. You can zoom and click on map icons in this window for more information. For full access to map controls, including layer descriptions, please click the expanding arrows icon in the top right portion of the map.

The Ohio Utica Shale Play Turns 500… Almost!

Drilling Trends

Ohio’s first Utica well was permitted by ODNR on behalf of Hess Ohio Resources on 9-28-10. As shown in Figure 1 (right), the major uptick in well permitting began in the summer of 2011 with 23 wells permitted during that period, ramping up to 24 wells in November 2011. There was a brief reduction in permitting during the winter of 2011-12, followed by the boom-boom summer and fall of 2012, with an average of 37 wells per month and a total of 261 wells permitted between June and December 2012.

Production

As of the end of 2012, only 30.4% of the 487 permitted wells had been drilled or are currently being drilled. Forty-seven are currently producing gas, with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) reporting production data for only 9 of the 47 producing wells. All of these wells are owned by Chesapeake, 2/3 of which are in Carroll County. On average, these wells produced 61 barrels of oil, 1,875 million cubic feet of gas, and 8,905 gallons (i.e. 37 tons) of brine per day over an average production period of 88 days. Twenty of the permitted wells are classified as inactive (not drilled) or plugged, with the remaining permitted but yet to be drilled (Figure 2). The top five Utica counties based on number of well permits are Carroll, Harrison, Columbiana [1], Jefferson, and Guernsey [2]; while on the other end, Ashland, Geauga, Medina, and Wayne are each home to one Utica well at this point (Figure 3). According to Columbus, OH-based Huntington Bank’s first Midwest Economic Index, early returns in these parts are mixed in Ohio: “58 percent of respondents agreed that the industry would bring opportunity, with 15 percent of those saying it would be a significant opportunity, while 42 percent said they did not see it bringing economic opportunity to their communities.”

Bird’s Eye View

From an area perspective, Carroll County has 0.45 wells per square mile – 0.39 more wells per square mile than the next ten counties with the most wells (Figure 4) – while the bottom four counties currently contain 0.0023 wells per square mile. The relationship between population and wells is generally the opposite of the previous two relationships with the bottom four counties having an average of 108,345 citizens for every well drilled. Carroll County has 163 residents per well, while the remaining top ten counties have an average resident-to-well ratio of 7,057 (Figure 4, Inset). This means that any potential ad valorem-based tax structure would benefit – on a per capita basis – less populated counties rather than those with more wells such as Carroll.

Companies Involved

Chesapeake and its subsidiaries is the dominant player in the Ohio Utica play, with 320 of all wells permitted, followed by Gulfport Energy with 25, Enervest and HG Energy with 16, and Hess Ohio with 14 permitted wells. These five firms account for 80.3% of all permitted wells in Ohio, with an additional eighteen firms splitting the remaining 19.7% (Table 1, below). However, the firms that are publicly traded have been experiencing an average decline in share price of 3.41% since the time their first wells were permitted to the close of business on January 22nd, 2013. The biggest financial losers have been some of the Ohio Utica play’s biggest participants – including Chesapeake (CHK, -27%), Consol Energy (CNX, -29%), and Devon (DVN, -17%) [3]. Meanwhile, Anadarko (APC, +14%), Gulfport (GPOR, +19%)), and the upstart PDC Energy (PDCE, +55%) are the biggest beneficiaries of wading into Ohio’s Utica Shale play. However, the industry is displaying quite a few characteristics of an unsustainable boom; Wall Street analysts have been skeptical of big Utica Shale energy operations from soup to nuts as reported by Reuters last fall. but Wall Street voted in favor of the removal – either voluntary or forced – of CHK’s founder Aubrey McLendon to the tune of a 10% share spike the day of the announcement. Even the aforementioned winners have been outperformed by the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial by 12.6% since permitting began in September 2010.

Will the boom continue to boom? It may be too soon to tell, but one thing is for sure, shale gas extraction to-date has made an indelible mark on many communities in eastern Ohio.

Figure 1. Ohio Utica Well Development per Month & Cumulatively as of January 1, 2013

Figure 1. Ohio Utica Well Development per Month & Cumulatively as of January 1, 2013. Click on the image to view full-screen.

Figure 2. Ohio Utica Well Status as of January 1, 2013.

Figure 2. Ohio Utica Well Status as of January 1, 2013. Click on the image to view full-screen.

Figure 3. Ohio Utica Wells by County as of January 1, 2013

Figure 3. Ohio Utica Wells by County as of January 1, 2013. Click on the image to view full-screen.

Figure 4. Ohio Utica Wells Per Square Mile by County and People Per Well by County as of January 1, 2013.

Figure 4. Ohio Utica Wells Per Square Mile by County and People Per Well by County as of January 1, 2013. Click on the image to view full-screen.


[1] Thanks to the surge in Columbiana County wells, the Texas-based Santrol will be opening a frac sand terminal with direct access to Ohio State Route 11 open 365 days a year and equipped to handle 500,000 tons annually.

[2] Guernsey and Noble are home to the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District that is currently in negotiations with Antero to drill beneath Seneca Lake – even though there is a substantial and vocal opposition in the region in the form of the Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save Our Water.


Table 1. Distribution of Ohio Utica Shale wells across companies (#, %), Date of First Permit (DFP), and the valuation of the publicly funded companies at their DFP at the close of business 1/22/2013.

     

Company Valuation

Company

#

%

DFP

Share Price DFP

Share Price 1/22/2013

% Change

Anadarko

12

0.025

09/07/2011

69.88

79.49

1.138

Antero

11

0.023

03/23/2012

Atlas Noble

5

0.010

09/24/2012

31.14

30.315

0.974

Carrizo

2

0.004

07/26/2012

24.02

22.43

0.934

Chesapeake Energy

320

0.657

12/23/2010

25.61

18.73

0.731

Chevron Appalachia

2

0.004

07/31/2012

109.58

115.91

1.058

Consol Energy

19

0.039

06/17/2011

45.86

32.74

0.714

Devon Energy

13

0.027

11/02/2011

65.46

54.28

0.829

Eclipse Resources

1

0.002

12/21/2012

Enervest

16

0.033

06/30/2011

9.37

9.37

1.000

EQT

1

0.002

09/13/2012

57.76

60.43

1.046

Gulfport Energy

25

0.051

02/28/2012

35.49

42.3

1.192

Halcon

1

0.002

11/02/2012

5.003

5.815

1.162

Hall Drilling

1

0.002

09/17/2012

Hess Ohio

14

0.029

09/28/2010

53.63

58.87

1.098

HG Energy

16

0.033

09/14/2011

Hilcorp Energy

1

0.002

12/14/2012

Mountaineer Keystone

7

0.014

07/13/2012

PDC Energy

4

0.008

05/25/2012

25.67

39.8

1.550

R E Gas Development

8

0.016

03/19/2012

Sierra Resources

3

0.006

07/02/2012

SWEPI

1

0.002

06/20/2012

XTO Energy

4

0.008

04/09/2012

0.28

0.027

0.096

 Sum

487

       Average

0.966

DFP = Date of First Permit; “—“ not a publicly funded company.

 

Lakes in Appalachian Ohio’s Utica Play: A Snapshot

By Ted Auch, PhD – Ohio Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

Ohio’s southwest Appalachian counties – namely Carroll, Harrison, Guernsey, and Noble Counties – are home to two significant resources:

  1. the state’s Utica Shale Triple Play – defined as the extraction of “natural gas and natural gas liquids…from the Marcellus Shale…Upper Devonian Shale…and the Utica Shale about 1,000 to 2,000 feet below the Marcellus” (Range Resources CEO, John Pinkerton); and
  2. many of the state’s premier lakes, including Atwood in Carroll and Tuscarawas and Senacaville in Noble and Guernsey counties (Figure 1).

Senacaville and Atwood Lakes provide countless ecological and economic benefits (a.k.a., Ecosystem Services) at a regional, state, and local level contributing substantially to the state’s $3.6 billion wildlife tourism economy – a number that is increasing by 2% per year according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Wildlife & Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR). Needless to say, the unconventional natural gas industry, which uses approximately 5 million gallons of fresh water per drilled well, relies heavily on Ohio’s lakes, wetlands, and to a lesser degree vernal pools – all of which are concentrated in the Utica Shale sweet spot counties on the Pennsylvania and West Virginia borders. These same counties are home to nearly all the state’s 440+ Utica Wells and more than half its 160+ injection wells (used for waste fluid disposal) (Figure 2).

Recently – for these and other environmental reasons – many in the area have grown concerned that Appalachian Ohio’s entire lake network is at risk due to current and proposed hydraulic fracturing and injection wells. In an attempt to assess these risks, we analyzed the proximity of current Utica drilled wells and Class II/III [1] wells to these two lakes specifically and to the state’s inland perennial water bodies. Atwood Lake is the lake with the most wells – either injection or fracturing – within a five-mile radius with 19 total (Figures 3 and 4). Meanwhile, M.J. Kirwan Reservoir, Guilford, and Senacaville Lakes each have 12 wells within a five-mile radius. The Cuyahoga River, Lake Mohawk, Tappan Lake, and Berlin Lake are the remaining water bodies currently within five miles of 10 or more wells. Four of these 19 wells are within two miles of Atwood and Guilford Lake’s shores. In the case of Tappan and Berlin Lakes, 3 wells sit within two miles (Figure 4). Interestingly Tappan Lake’s integrity from a water quality perspective has come under pressure thanks to the Chesapeake Energy Dodson well according to Charles Fisher, administrator of the Harrison County Health Department and organic farmer John M. Luber as “a stream…that empties into Tappan Lake becomes discolored during periods of rainfall or melting snow…the pollution did not happen until drilling operations began.”

In researching previous natural resource activities in the Utica Shale Basin, we found that in addition to the many shale and injection wells in the vicinity of these lakes, most are surrounded or sit atop abandoned, underground coal mines (AUCM). One example is Senacaville Lake, where Seneca Coal’s Klondyke, Rigby, and Walholding AUCMs are within feet of the lake’s western shore. In addition, Akron Coal, James W. Ellsworth, and Cambridge Collieries’ AUCMs just to the west of Senecaville Lake lie directly beneath two Utica and two Class III wells, bringing into question the reported discrete nature of these types of extraction procedures with respect to their proximity to primary freshwater sources. The same is true for Atwood Lake, with six AUCMs less than a mile of its eastern extent – previously owned by the Ohio Central Mining Co., Burns Coal Co., White Barr Coal Co., Marshall Harvey, etc. (Figure 5).

The possibility for the disruption of regular inputs/outputs of these lakes’ hydrological cycles – specifically from a water quality or quantity perspective – is growing. This is the case because the interconnectivity (Setbacks Press Release V 3) between Utica and injection wells is increasing and due to the fact that many AUCM exist in the very areas where hydraulic fracturing is currently being conducted or has been proposed. As a result, many community organizations and non-profit environmental groups are looking to construct and implement a comprehensive water monitoring protocol in Ohio’s Utica Basin. However, given funding limitations and the lack of data being made available from Ohio’s Department of Natural Resource (ODNR) and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), these groups are being forced to prioritize water bodies of concern. Our research suggests that some of the state’s largest and most economically beneficial lakes – namely Senacaville, Atwood, Guilford, Tappan, and Berlin – are at the top of the list of stressed and/or potentially susceptible inland waters.

Figure 1. Eastern Ohio Utica Shale Basin - Click to enlarge

Figure 1. Eastern Ohio Utica Shale Basin

Figure 2. Ohio’s lakes, wetlands, and vernal pools relative to its Utica Shale and Class II/III injection wells - Click to enlarge

Figure 2. Ohio lakes, wetlands, & vernal pools relative to Utica Shale & Class II/III injection wells

Figure 3. The distribution of Ohio’s Utica Shale and Class II/III Injection wells with respect the region’s primary perennial water bodies at 1, 3, and 5 mile intervals

Figure 3. The distribution of Ohio’s Utica Shale and Class II/III Injection wells with respect the region’s primary perennial water bodies at 1, 3, and 5 mile intervals

 

Figure 4. Senecaville & Atwood Lake Region of Ohio’s shale geology, state parks, Utica Shale and Class II/III wells (Note: Pink & Green Circles represent 1 mile radius around Utica Shale and Class III Wells). - Click to enlarge

Figure 4. Senecaville & Atwood Lake Region of Ohio’s shale geology, state parks, Utica Shale & Class II/III wells

Figure 5. Senecaville & Atwood Lake Region of Ohio’s shale geology, state parks, Utica Shale and Class II/III wells, and Abandoned Underground Coal Mines (AUCMs) - Click to enlarge

Figure 5. Senecaville & Atwood Lake Region of Ohio’s shale geology, state parks, Utica Shale & Class II/III wells, plus Abandoned Underground Coal Mines

Note: Pink & Green Circles in Figures 4 and 5 represent a 1 mile radius around Utica Shale & Class III Wells.

 


1. From the ODNR: “Class II disposal wells include conventional brine injection wells, annular disposal wells, and enhanced oil recovery injection wells. Enhanced recovery injection wells are used to increase production of hydrocarbons from nearby producing wells… Additionally, DMRM also regulates Class III salt-solution mining wells, which are used to produce saturated brine from the salt deposits that occur from 2000 to 3500 feet below Ohio’s ground surface. The saturated brine is then used to make table salt, water softener salt, and salt blocks. All types of injection wells are designed to ensure safe injection into permitted formations.”

2012 Violations per Well in Pennsylvania

Ever since the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) first released violation data to FracTracker in October 2010, our viewers have wanted to know if there were any discernible patterns in the data.  Since that time, the format of the data has changed, the data categories have changed, and the analyses at FracTracker have continued to evolve.  The gold standard has always been some variation on the number of violations per well (VpW), which takes into account the reality that some operators have many more wells than others, so ranking by the total number of violations would show the largest operators in the worst light.

Even so, there are many ways to calculate the data.  The first effort was violations per offending well, which more than anything measures how badly things go when they do go wrong.  The difference between that and violations per drilled well is more than trivial semantics, because it’s designed to show how often things go wrong per attempt.  This same analysis also includes violations per amount of gas produced, which is more of a cost/benefit analysis, which allows for the possibility that some violations may be “worth it” more so than others, if the well is an especially large producer.

But even violations per drilled well is less straght-forward than one might think.  You could look at a given time frame, or the entire period of available data–either way you do it there will be some skew, whether because some activity is excluded, or because the data for drilled wells goes back three years further than violations data.

There is also the fact that some violation ID numbers appear more than one time on the compliance report, a fact that makes, “What is a violation?” something of an existential question.  Summaries by PADEP show that the agency counts violations by the number of violation IDs that have been issued, although a close look at the data really does make it seem like related issues are sometimes lumped together into a single violation ID, although usually not.

And finally, there is the whole issue of whether we should even bother to count administrative violations, or if we should limit it to the environmental, health, and safety (EH&S) category.  In February 2012, FracTracker argued to include administrative violations, as a closer look at those violations showed that it included real-world impacts, and not just a failure to dot i’s and cross t’s.  A few months later, the University of Buffalo’s Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI) argued, among other things, to exclude them.  FracTracker then created a Classify the Violation Quiz, which asks users to guess whether a given violation was classified as administrative or EH&S.  This anonymous quiz was set up so that participants who got half of the questions correct would pass, but despite the fact that each question only has two possible answers, a large majority of respondents have failed.  A few months later, the prime advocate for excluding administrative violations–the SRSI–was closed by the University of Buffalo amid a cloud of ethics concerns.

It is a shame that a simple metric like violations per well should require such a preamble, but at FracTracker, we strive to be completely open with what we have done with the data.  In this case, I have looked at both the number of violation IDs issued as well as the raw number of appearances on the report.  Administrative violations are rightfully included.  Wells are included if their spud date was in 2012, and violations are included if their violation issue date was in 2012.  This data has been summarized by drilling operator and by county.  So let’s get to it:

Violations issued per well drilled

Violations issued per well drilled for unconventional oil and gas operators in Pennsylvania in 2012.

The following line chart shows the violations per well as tabulated by unique violation ID numbers issued:

Violations per well by operator for unconventional wells in Pennsylvania in 2012.  Violations tallied by unique violation ID numbers issued.

Violations per well by operator for unconventional wells in Pennsylvania in 2012. Violations tallied by unique violation ID numbers issued.

In the chart above, Penn Virginia and Enerplus seem to be particularly egregious in terms of violations per the number of wells drilled, but it should be pointed out that both operators had only one well drilled in 2012, reminding us of the importance of sample size.  Here then is the same data, including only operators that drilled 10 or more wells in 2012:

Violations per well by operators with 10 or more unconventional wells drilled in Pennsylvania.

Violations per well by operators with 10 or more unconventional wells drilled in Pennsylvania.

The state-wide average in this category is 0.50 violations per well drilled.

Let’s take a look at the data in terms of geography:

Violations per well by county for unconventional wells in PennsylvaniaViolations per well by county for unconventional wells in Pennsylvania

As with operators, there is considerable variation in terms of violations per well between the various counties:

Violations per well by county for unconventional wells in Pennsylvania

Violations per well by county for unconventional wells in Pennsylvania

Drilled Unconventional Wells in PA by County and Year

Nothing rings out the old year quite like a nice data table. So here, for your viewing pleasure, is a list of drilled unconventional wells in Pennsylvania, sorted both by county and year:

Drilled Unconventional Wells in PA: 2005 to 2012

This table is perhaps the most succinct way to summarize the eight years of unconventional drilling activity in Pennsylvania on a county by county basis, and in that regard, it stands as a useful reference.  But at FracTracker, we are always trying to ask, “What does it mean?  So here are a few points to take away from this table:

  • The last two columns show the changes from 2011 to 2012 in terms of raw count and percent change, respectively. Those counties showing a year to year reduction are highlighted with red text in these columns.
  • The number of unconventional wells drilled statewide in 2012 is the smallest total since 2009, and is down 31 percent from 2011 totals.
  • Some counties, such as Allegheny and Armstrong, are experiencing an expansion of activity from the industry, while others, such as Tioga and Bradford, are declining sharply.

Of course, we also like to look for spatial patterns at FracTracker. The results are not random:


Percent change of number of unconventional wells drilled by Pennsylvania county from 2011 to 2012. To access full controls, click the expanding arrows icon at the top right corner of the map.

Although reported oil and condensate production values are modest for unconventional wells in the state, the cluster of green counties (which show more wells drilled in 2012 than 2011) in southwestern PA occur in the area where the Marcellus Shale is considered to be wet gas. Counties in the northeastern portion of the state typically produce more natural gas than in other places, but it is generally dry gas. Clearly, the heavier hydrocarbons of the southwestern counties are more of interest for drillers in a year in which gas reserves have been well above average all year long.

Texas Lease and Pooling Data Available

In the wacky world of oil and gas data, you never know what unexpected treasures there are to be found. For that matter, you never know what standard data will remain out of reach. Such is the story of the new Texas Lease and Pooling Agreements entry to FracMapper.


Texas Lease and Pooling Agreements. This map is zoomable and you can click on the map icons for more information. For full access to the FracMapper controls, click the expanding arrows icon in the top right corner.

In many states, even though lease data is technically publicly available, in practice, it is nearly impossible to obtain in a systematic fashion. Imagine searching through stacks of property files at county office buildings to see if there happens to be any mineral rights attached to a plot of land; this is the reason that lease data is so often not available in the way that oil and gas well data usually is. But in Texas, it’s easy: just go the the Texas General Land Office (GLO) website and download it. Not only that, but they have pooling agreement mapping data freely available as well.

On the other hand, the oil and gas well data is not up to the transparency and accessibility standards of other states. Although the agency that regulates that data, the Railroad Commission (RRC) of Texas, has a bevy of search tools available, notably missing from the results are the location data. As it turns out, the Lone Star State actually charges for that data, and a pretty penny too.  Luckily, the RRC does provide a one county sample of the sort of data that one might get if they spent thousands of dollars on their data. This has allowed FracTracker to determine that the data purchase is decidedly not worthwhile. The oil and gas wells don’t even have complete well API numbers, let alone spud or permit issue dates.

Hopefully someday, the RRC will follow the data transparency model of the GLO, and not the other way around. A state funded by such a robust severance tax ought to be able to figure out a way to get this data out there for free.

Additional FracMapper Content in WI, CA

FracTracker’s mapping section is constantly being updated with new content, both by adding content to existing maps, as well as adding maps of new themes or geographies.  For example, two new maps have been added in the past week, including a map of frac sand mining operations in Wisconsin and hydraulically fractured wells in California.  Let’s take a quick look at each one:


Wisconsin Silica Frac Sand Mining Operations. This map is zoomable and clickable, but to gain full access to our tools, click on the expanding arrows icon at the top right corner of the map.

This map is based on a dataset from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that was provided upon request. It includes mines that are operational, have been permitted, or where permits have been applied for. There are three basic types of facilities, including mining (pick and shovel icon), processing (industrial facility icon), and shipping (train icon), with one facility left as unspecified. Click each map icon for more information on the given facility.


California Shale Viewer. This map is zoomable and clickable, but to gain full access to our tools, click on the expanding arrows icon at the top right corner of the map.

California has over 217,000 wells in their database, of which 545 are listed as having been hydraulically fractured. This map also contains county and sub-county boundaries from the US Census Bureau, and large and small watershed boundaries from the USDA Geopatial Data Gateway The sub-county boundaries can be accessed by zooming in, and the watershed boundaries can be turned on by clicking the expanding arrows in the top right of the embedded map, clicking on the “Layers” toolbar, and activating those layers. Once again, users will need to zoom in to access the finer resolution data.

Other recent data updates include the addition of karst and karst-like geography to the United States and Pennsylvania maps. These formations indicate the likely presence of natural caves, tubes, and fissures that could potentially contribute to unwanted subterranean migrations.

Are there any certain types of data that you would like to see mapped? Leave a comment to let us know, and we’ll see what we can do!

SkyTruth Aggregates FracFocus Data

Among the many provisions under Act 13, Pennsylvania oil and gas operators now must join several other states by disclosing some generalized information about chemical additives to wells that undergo hydraulic fracturing to a national registry called FracFocus.org. On their main page, FracFocus describes their role in the following manner:

In a single year, FracFocus has made a national impact from the Beltway to the Bakken. During this time, more than 200 energy-producing companies have registered over 15,000 well sites through FracFocus.

This success is the result of nationally recognized organizations working with the oil and natural gas industry to provide public transparency. Learn more and see highlights from the first year of FracFocus.

However, there are strong differences of opinion on what transparency really means.  Does it entail specific data about a well, general information about all the wells, or both?  The chemical registry is focused on specifics about individual wells, and although the data is easily accessible for them, they don’t offer data downloads for users interested in a wider scope.  Whether this amounts to data transparency has everything to do with the lens that one looks through.

Let’s say, for example, that you already know a bit about a given well.  As a random example, let’s use API# 37-131-20104, a well operated by Chesapeake in Wyoming County, PA.  When we conduct a search, we are given the opportunity to download a PDF where we can learn a great deal about the well that is not available from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) data download section. We learn, for example, that the well was fractured on May 8, 2012 using over 1.3 million gallons of water, as well as the maximum amounts used of chemical additives the hydraulic fracturing fluid, and why they were added to the mix.

Objectively, that is a large step forward in transparency, as this information was not available before.   But what if your questions about the industry are broader?  You may want to know, for example, if some operators are putting diesel fuel into the hydraulic fracturing fluid, or whether some anti-bacterial agents are more prominent in certain geographies than others.  You might want to do a comparison on which companies claim data to be proprietary, relative to the industry as a whole, or whether there is any correlation between particularly noxious chemical additives and well production.  To answer questions like these, you just need a summary of the data that FracFocus already offers.  But unfortunately, FracFocus will not provide this aggregated data.

To help address questions such as these, SkyTruth.org has extracted the data from the PDF documents using a combination of automated and manual techniques, and have made the results available to FracTracker and the general public.  The result is a major step forward in data transparency; even before the chemical data have been picked through and combed over, there are still several new types of data that the general public didn’t have access to before.

FracFocus Data Available for Mapping
SkyTruth’s efforts have allowed us to map FracFocus data. Click on the map above to explore.

The data include over 26,000 records from FracFocus since January 1, 2011 from twenty different states around the country. Now it is possible for people other than industry insiders to learn about variables not provided by the various states, including depth of target formation, fracturing dates, amounts of water used. There is also a separate dataset including all listed chemicals at each well, which comes in at well over 800,000 records for the 21 months of the report.

Of course, users must remain mindful that this is not, in fact, a completely comprehensive dataset.  While several states have recently required disclosure of the chemical additives, in remains a voluntary disclosure in other locations.  Some of the chemicals are listed in the abstract, but marked as proprietary, which naturally limits our understanding of what was put into the well.  And as with other large datasets of this sort, it is likely that there are a significant number of omissions and errors.

At FracTracker, we’d like to extend our gratitude to both FracFocus for collecting the data and making it public, and to SkyTruth, for aggregating it and making it more usable.  In our view, both of these steps are critical for true data transparency.  This transparency, in turn, is indispensable for making an enhanced understanding of the oil and gas industry possible.

PA Waste and Production Maps Available on FT’s FracMapper

Additional Pennsylvania content has been added to FracTracker’s mapping utility, FracMapper. In addition to the Shale Gas Viewer, which contains a lot of basic information about unconventional gas extraction in the Commonwealth, users can now also find information on the latest production and waste reports, which range from January 1, 2012 to June 30, 2012 in both cases. All three maps can be found together on the Pennsylvania Maps page.

Let’s take a look at each of the new maps:

Production

The production map(1) contains separate layers for each of the three kinds of production reported in Pennsylvania:  gas (measured in thousands of cubic feet, or Mcf); condensate (measured in barrels); and oil (measured in barrels).  I have also made county-level maps containing aggregated data by county for each of the three products, including total production, number of wells that contributed to the production (which may differ from “drilled wells”), and the average production of those wells.  So for example, there were two unconventional wells that produced oil in Butler County, for a total of 7,488.34 barrels, which is an average of 3,744.17 per producing well.


Pennsylvania unconventional production map. Click the expanding arrow icon in the top right to gain access to additional functionality.

Waste

There are three layers in this map, all of which are based on the most recent unconventional waste report.  First, there is a generalized layer, which shows the location of the wells producing waste, but does not have any specific content.  This layer exists to improve map performance at the statewide level.  If you zoom in past 1:500,000 (a view showing several counties), then the generalized layer disappears, and the data become available by clicking on any of the wells that reported waste production.  Finally, there is a layer of facilities that received the waste.  If you click on one of the industrial icons, it will bring up the aggregated waste that was received by that facility, and included information on how that waste was disposed of (i.e., injection wells or landfills).  To see the list of disposal methods and their abbreviations, please click on the expanding arrows in the top right of the map below, then the “About” icon on the toolbar.

Pennsylvania unconventional waste production map. Click the expanding arrow icon in the top right to gain access to additional functionality.

  1. As a mapmaker, I am vexed by some rendering issues with this map that have not yet been fully resolved. For each of the three county layers, all counties reporting zero production are supposed to draw transparently, and one of the largest producing counties of gas, Bradford, is supposed to be opaque. While this map remains stylistically unsatisfactory, the data remain accurate. Here is a screen shot of what the map is supposed to look like when showing gas data:

    Hopefully, this issue will be resolved shortly.