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!

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:


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.


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.
North Dakota shale viewer

Exploring North Dakota’s Bakken Formation on FracMapper

A new North Dakota map is now available on FracTracker. It joins content from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia in our efforts to make data concerning mineral extraction from shale more accessible and understandable.

In this embedded view of the North Dakota map, users can pan and zoom. For full featured control, click the expanding arrows icon (top right of map) to access the map directly.

The area drawn in yellow in the western portion of the state is a generalized layer of activity for the Bakken formation. It was created to help with map performance and accuracy at scales ranging from statewide to 1:750,000, or about the size of a county. Once you zoom in beyond that level, the generalized layer goes away, and some interesting content becomes available.

A screen capture of the North Dakota map
In the screen capture above, I zoomed in past 1:750,000, so the producing wells are visible, as well as a layer of horizontal laterals that are associated with the wells, a feature that few states make available.  The location was chosen at random from the Bakken region, however, if you would like to see a similar view, click the “Search” tool and then type “New Town, ND” into the text box.  I have also changed the basemap to show a satellite image by selecting “Imagery with Labels” from the base map selector.

Close up of “Mamba 1-20H” well

Each feature, or item on the map, has different data associated with it.  I’ve clicked on a well at random to bring up the data pop up box.  Because the data is controlled at the state level, there are often substantial differences in the types of data that are available.  In North Dakota, we can see the cumulative total of oil, gas, and waste water production by scrolling through these pop up boxes.  Units of measure are not provided, but they are assumed to be barrels for oil and waste water, and thousands of cubic feet (Mcf) for gas.

At the very top of that box, there is a gray bar with the text “(1 of 3)”.  This means that multiple features are selected.  Viewers can scroll through them by clicking the arrow icon on the gray bar.  Viewers can reduce the number of selected items by zooming in and making layers inactive.  To change the layers, just click on “Layers” in the main toolbar, and click the checkboxes next to each layer to select or de-select the various available choices.  Please recall that some layers are scale dependent, so they are not available at all times.

For more information about the Bakken formation and the layers available on the map, please click the “About” icon on the main toolbar.


Unveiling FracMapper, FracTracker’s new mapping system!

Transition to FracMapper

These are exciting times for those of us at FracTracker – now officially the FracTracker Alliance. One of the many changes that we have been working on over the last few months is a new mapping utility for website visitors who want an easy-to-use point and click tool – what we are affectionately calling FracMapper.

FracMapper runs on an Esri-based platform called ArcGIS Online. As those in the GIS world may know, Esri is the largest company in the world that specializes in helping people make maps with GIS technologies. You don’t need to be registered to use FracMapper, although we do highly encourage you to sign up for our monthly e-newsletter, which keeps recipients up-to-date with FracTracker news and information about shale gas.

There are a lot intuitive features available on the new tool as of today’s launch. See the list below for just a few of them. We are also in the process of developing a few more features, including the ability to store and share the data behind the maps. All of this is coming to you this fall as we slowly phase out our existing data/mapping platform (

Current FracMapper Features

  • Maps by state: PA, WV, OH, NY, etc. and US-wide
  • Layers as available by state (permits, violations, drilled wells, etc)
  • Search by location
  • Save a location and return to it later
  • Choose which layers you want to show on the map
  • View/hide the legend
  • Zoom or pan the map
  • Variety of base maps available
  • Click on a point or area for more information
  • Read text and brief metadata in the “About” section
  • Scale bar
  • Distance, area, and location measurement tools
  • File downloads
    • Shape file (polygon/lines)
    • CSV – comma-separated values files (points)
  • And many more…

Features in Development

  • Map exporting and printing (added February 2013)
  • Data search (e.g. by permit number)
  • Sticky notes
  • Clip and ship – Will allow for a targeted download of data from a self-designated an area of interest (e.g. Allegheny County)
  • Charting, including within the popup boxes
  • Data storage
  • Additional states, countries, and map layers

Don’t worry! The data focus of is only going to grow with the implementation of FracMapper. We are designing the new platform to include the capacity to store and share your data. We are hoping to roll out that feature by spring 2013. Contact us with questions:

[survey form below closed]

Drilled Wells in PA by Watershed Data Available

This information is out of date. Please visit our FracMapper page for updated PA maps.

There are two new Pennsylvania watershed available for download on FracTracker’s DataTool:

  • Pennsylvania Watersheds (HUC12), which shows the boundaries of watershed boundaries within the state at relatively fine level of detail. In general, the higher the number associated with the HUC (hydrologic unit code), the smaller the size of the watershed, and the greater the accuracy and resolution of the file. For more information on HUC’s, see this US Geologic Survey page.
  • Pennsylvania Watersheds With Drilled Unconventional Wells (8-29-2012), which contains those watersheds in the above dataset with one or more drilled wells, as determined by a spatial join with PADEP drilled unconventional welldata.Included on this dataset for each watershed is the number of unconventional wells drilled within its boundary from January 1, 2005 through August 29, 2012, as well as a density of wells per square kilometer.

You can find out more information on any watershed in the maps below by clicking the blue “i” tool, then clicking on any watershed shape. Please click the gray compass rose and double carat (^) symbol to hide those menus.

Drilled unconventional wells by watershed in Pennsylvania

Density of drilled unconventional wells per square kilometer in Pennsylvania watersheds

Global bans, moratoria, and movements regarding hydraulic fracturing for natural gas

Global Reactions to Hydraulic Fracturing

In addition to her mapping of bans in New York State, FracTracker’s Karen Edelstein is also keeping up with the movements against high volume hydraulic fracturing worldwide. See below for her most recent map:

Global bans, moratoria, and movements regarding hydraulic fracturing for natural gas

Statewide County Natural Heritage Inventory Map

We Love Maps

At FracTracker, you could say that we are a bit obsessed about maps and data.  The amazing map below was created and is updated by the PA Natural Heritage Program (PNHP). While this is a recurring project for PNHP, with the increase in shale gas activity in recent years it is ever more important to protect and document changes to sensitive ecosystems.

Important Natural Heritage Areas

PA Natural Heritage Sites - Click for Interactive Map

Click on the map to check out a statewide interactive map featuring data from the County Natural Heritage Inventory. The results presented in this map represent a snapshot in time, highlighting the sensitive natural areas within Pennsylvania. Core habitat is outlined in red (places where any disturbance could be detrimental to certain ecological species), supporting landscape in purple, and landscape conservation areas in yellow.

By clicking on the map, you will be taken to the Heritage Program’s site where you can search the map by county, watershed, or an address to learn more about the protected areas near you. On this page you can learn about the species of special concern such as the Copperhead, the Bog Turtle,  and Northern Cricket Frog.

About the Inventory

The County Natural Heritage Inventory is a cooperative program undertaken by the PNHP partnership. The County Natural Heritage Inventories (CNHI) have been systematic studies of the critical biological resources of the state, county by county. The primary focus of CNHIs has been on species of concern: those plants, animals, natural communities, and habitats most at risk of extinction at the global or local level. These projects are designed to identify, map and discus areas that support species of concern, exemplary natural communities and broad expanses of intact natural ecosystems that support components of Pennsylvania’s native species biodiversity. These areas are prioritized based upon their ecological qualities and provided with recommendations regarding their management and protection.

These studies were conceived as tools to assist in planning to avoid the accidental destruction of habitats supporting species of concern at both the county and municipal levels and have been used effectively in that capacity. CNHIs have been incorporated into comprehensive plans, consulted to plan development projects, and utilized by conservation organizations to prioritize their work. Additionally, these studies have been used to help in the development of recreational amenities, promotion of tourism industries and assistance in community development. CNHIs have also been a primary source for much of the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory permit review data. CNHIs can actually streamline economic and infrastructure developments by providing information on sensitive environmental features early in the planning process when adjustments can be made at little cost or delay.

The County Natural Heritage Inventory is a planning tool, and is not intended to be used as a substitute for environmental review. For more information, view the Statewide CNHI fact sheet.


Shale Gas Trends in Ohio: Abandoning Marcellus, Embracing Utica

Ohio is on the western edge of two enormous black shale formations in Appalachian Basin: the 390 million year old Devonian Period Marcellus Shale and the Utica Shale, formed from deposits in the Ordovician Period about 460 million years ago.

Image source: Ohio Environmental Protection Agency

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has made it easy to find shale gas data from these two formations.
This is provided that you are only interested in horizontal wells. ODNR sums up their opinion of the importance of horizontal wells thusly:

Effective immediately, the vertical permits (stratigraphic test well permits) have been removed from this listing. In the initial phases of both Marcellus and Utica exploration, they were listed to reflect exploratory activity. They are no longer necessary with the increase of horizontal permitting activity. As always, they are available through the Oil and Gas On-line Well Search (1).

To me, this seems like an arbitrary line in the sand for the ODNR to take, but then again, each state has its own quirks with dissemination of their oil and gas data. In Pennsylvania, for example, there is no way to determine a well’s source formation without a file review, other than whether or not the well is drilled into the Marcellus.  And in New York, the entire debate is couched around the phrase “High Volume Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing”, a specificity unmatched elsewhere in the basin, that includes well stimulations using more than 80,000 gallons of fluid.  In many respects, the ways in which the states release their data are datapoints unto themselves, but then, that is the subject of a different post altogether.

So let’s take a look at the trends in Ohio for the deep shale gas formations:

Ohio shale gas permits, including Marcellus (blue) and Utica (red). Please note that Marcellus wells include horizontal and vertical permits, while Utica includes only permits for horizontal wells. Please click the gray compass rose and double carat (^) to hide those menus.

Horizontal Marcellus Shale permits issued in Ohio through 4-9-2012

Clearly, there is not nearly as much activity as there is in Pennsylvania or even West Virginia. Altogether, there have been 13 horizontal Marcellus permits issued in the Buckeye State, the most recent of which was nearly ten months ago.  Seven of the permitted locations have been drilled so far.

Here’s the data from the Utica Shale:

Horizontal Utica Shale permits issued in Ohio through 4-9-2012

Altogether, there have been permits issued for 194 horizontal Utica wells, 60 of which have been drilled so far. Moreover, it seems to be in a period of rapid expansion; a distribution is reminiscent of the Marcellus in Pennsylvania in 2006 to 2007 (see link above).

Only nine of the sixty drilled wells were in production in 2011, four of which produced some oil from early completion and flowback phases, but no natural gas as of yet. None of the horizontal Utica wells were in production for the entire year in 2011.

Here are the statewide totals from the horizontal Utica wells:

Statewide production values from horizontal Utica Shale wells in Ohio in 2011

It is worth noting that over 59 percent of the gas production came from one well publicized Harrison County gas well–its 1.5 billion cubic feet of production is reported to be the source of 2 percent of the entire state’s gas production.

While that is an impressive quantity of gas from one well, it might be the oil production that is raising eyebrows in the industry. As this post is being written, oil prices are at $104 per barrel, and natural gas is trading at $1.92 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf). While there really isn’t much data to go on to determine if the results are typical, if there continues to be oil associated with the Utica gas to that extent, we may see more drilling rigs focused on the older formation, and fewer on the Marcellus.

  1. The well database is here. There are some limitations on the utility of this database, however, as users cannot use formation as a search parameter, and searches are limited to 1,000 records. Upon request though, the ODNR did send me a DVD full of data. The information is available, it just takes some fortitude to slog through it.

Interest in West Virginia’s Marcellus Now Focused on North

If you look at the overall map of Marcellus Shale permits in West Virginia, it seems to be a topic of concern for most of the state. Looking at the map below of data obtained by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) Oil and Gas Dataviewer, it isn’t surprising to note that such permits have been issued in 46 out of 55 counties in the Mountain State (1):

WV Marcellus Permits Issued:  2005 to 3-2012 (large)
Marcellus Shale permits issued in West Virginia from 2005 to 3-20-2012

I was curious to see how the distribution looked over time, and was surprised to notice a pronounced contraction of the area of interest:

Marcellus Shale permits issued in WV by year

West Virginia Marcellus Shale permits issued by year, showing data by county and average latitude and longitude of each permitted location. Click image to view full size PDF.

While the majority of the state has been explored over the past seven years, the entire southwestern portion has been abandoned in terms of the Marcellus Shale (2), and the average latitude and longitude of all permits issued in 2011 is less than 20 miles from the Pennsylvania border.

To illustrate the trend, let’s take a closer look at Kanawha County, which is the most southwestern county with any shade of blue in the 2011 map.  In 2007 and 2008, it led the way among all West Virginia counties with 29 and 48 permits issued, respectively, and the average permitted location was just one county to the northeast.  Three years later, the number of new permits in Kanawha had dwindled to just one.

In contrast, Marshall County (the southernmost county in the panhandle) and Wetzel County (just to the south of Marshall) generated very little interest in the early exploration of West Virginia’s Marcellus Shale hydrocarbons, but by 2011, they were the top two counties in terms of permits issued.

This all begs the question of why the southwestern portion of the state is abandoned.  While I don’t have access to production data, I assume that wells that were drilled in that area yielded disappointing returns on industry investments, or else efforts to extract resources would have continued.  A colleague noted that the abandoned territory also happens to be the heart of West Virginia’s coal country, so perhaps there was some interference between the two extractive industries.  This could be a contributing factor, but it is difficult to imagine a situation in which drillers would totally cede an eight county area to miners without massive compensation.

Lacking further data, it may not be possible to know the full story of what happened between 2008 and 2011 in southwestern West Virginia.  But there is one thing that we know for sure:  for all intents and purposes, the recoverable portion of the Marcellus Shale is smaller than we used to think.

  1. The WVDEP data is fairly sloppy, as some of the permitted locations are actually in adjacent states, and 373 of the 2472 records downloaded (15 percent) on 3-20-2012 lacked permit issue dates. It is possible that these dates could be obtained from the alternative data source of The Oil and Gas Dataviewer was preferred because it was possible to select for permits issued, and because the location data were in longitude and latitude rather than universal transverse Mercator.
  2. County data is not included in the original data, but it is encoded in the well API number.  Of necessity, the entries without permit issue dates were omitted from this analysis.