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.

Pennsylvania Unconventional Waste Data

As we recently learned with unconventional production report, one never quite knows when Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) datasets are complete. According to the Post-Gazette, PADEP considers the reports to speak for themselves, and information is shared with the public without preamble or fanfare as it becomes available.  Therefore, we can’t know that self-reported data, in this case unconventional waste report, is ever truly complete.  Hopefully at this point, which is now several weeks after the reporting deadline, we can let the report speak what it will, expecting that further changes will be fairly minor in scope.

In addition to all of that, some oil and gas operators were apparently confused about the difference between gallons and 42 gallon barrels in the past, leading to wildly erroneous reports.  We’ll just have to hope that’s not the case.

First, let’s take a look a the amount of waste produced by type for unconventional wells between January and June of 2012:

And here is the same dataset, arranged to show disposal method (with the waste types grouped together for the sake of simplicity):

Here are the data arranged by operator:

Please note that not all wells that are present on the report are producing waste, or have even been drilled for that matter.  In fact, there is a column in the data where operators can explain why there is no waste being reported.  Here are those results, summarized:

This does not mean, however, that there are 7,994 wells producing waste.  In fact, there are only 5,651 instances of wells reporting at least some amount of one or more kinds of waste, a number roughly in line with the spud count.  This number was actually more than I had expected, since it is known that not all of the spudded (drilled) wells have been put into production, and that reported totals for drill cuttings are remarkable modest for a series of holes in the ground that are roughly between 5,000 and 8,500 feet deep.  The explanation, it turns out, is due to the architecture of the dataset, wherein each line of data is capable of handling only one type of waste, so that wells reporting multiple types of waste must appear more than once.  Therefore, there are not 9,038 wells, or even 5,651.  There are 3,922 unique wells on the report, as counted by the unique well API numbers.  For this reason, in the charts above, it is best to think of the “Wells” columns as “Instances” instead.

It is also probable that different operators report their waste in different ways.  For example, EQT and Chesapeake are both near the top of the list in the amount of barrels of liquid waste produced, but neither one reported any waste that was measured in tons (drill cuttings and flowback fracturing sand).  Without having seen their operations in the field, we must assume that the waste produced is fundamentally similar to that of other operators–perhaps they reported the waste content as a viscous fluid rather than filtering out some of the solids, as other operators seem to do.

Unconventional Production and Waste Data Still Trickling In

Last week, I took a quick look at the newly released, semi-annual unconventional production report published by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) Office of Oil and Gas Management. The results were fairly stunning: it showed a decrease in production from 607 billion cubic feet (Bcf) for the period from July to December 2011 to just under 303 Bcf for the first six months of 2012.

Thanks to a comment from one of our astute users on the DataTool, I was alerted to the fact that the wells of Pennsylvania’s largest unconventional well operator, Chesapeake Appalachia, were entirely missing.

After checking the data again this morning, Chesapeake’s wells are still missing from the report, but other wells have been included that were previously missing, bringing the temporary total for unconventional gas for the six month period to 705 Bcf. This amounts to a substantial gain over the previous six month cycle, not a dramatic reduction.

I will check back regularly for Chesapeake data, but until then, both the production and waste reports, which are self-reported by operators to PADEP, should be considered incomplete.  I apologize for the inadvertent mischaracterization of the data.

Drilled Wells by Operator Over Time in PA’s Marcellus

The roster of companies that drill into Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale is a long one:  there are 70 different operators listed on the Marcellus Spud Report at the PADEP website. Here is a list of each operator, complete with annual totals since 2005:

Marcellus Shale wells drilled by operator by year, through May 2, 2012

With the chart below, you can view the same data in a different way:

Percentage of each operator’s drilling activity by year. Please click the above image for a full sized view.

This graph is particularly useful for highlighting new operators, as well as those that are no longer drilling wells. When I show data trends for operators over time, I typically get multiple comments about mergers, acquisitions, and subsidiaries within the industry. Such comments are welcome, and yet any attempt to account for them on my end will almost certainly be incomplete, and therefore potentially misleading. For that reason, I have elected not to aggregate operators in any way, tempting though it may be to combine “Exco Resources PA Inc” and “Exco Resources PA Llc”.

Here are a few more observations about the data:

  • Atlas Resources drilled an industry-high 117 Marcellus Shale wells in 2009. The company is still active, but not on the same scale, drilling just 11 wells last year, and only four wells in the first four months of 2012.
  • The DEP has apparently made some retroactive changes to the operators for wells drilled in previous years. In this violations analysis from November, for example, Dominion Exploration and Production has 17 wells between 2006 and 2011. Now, the only Dominion well is for Dominion Trans Inc. The balance of Dominion wells was likely transferred to either Consol Gas Co or CNX Gas Co Llc, both subsidiaries of Consol Energy, which purchased Dominion’s Marcellus holdings in 2010.
  • Whatever prompted the DEP to reassign Dominion wells to other operators apparently didn’t apply for Shell’s 2010 acquisition of East Resources.  Or at least it didn’t apply for all of East’s wells–in November, East was credited as being the operator for 342 wells, while they currently are on record for 298.  Shell, which does business as SWEPI on this list, had no wells until 2011 on the November list, whereas now, they are listed as the operator for 21 wells that were spudded between 2008 and 2010.
  • With 545 wells drilled through the first 123 days of 2012, the industry is on pace to drill 1,617 Marcellus wells in Pennsylvania this year, down from 1,937 wells last year.

Where Does the Waste From PA’s Marcellus Wells Go?

A new dataset has been added to FracTracker’s DataTool which aggregates the waste produced by Marcellus Shale wells in Pennsylvania in the last half of 2011 by the facilities that receive them. And while all of this waste was produced within the Commonwealth, the waste products are disposed of over a wide geographical area, spanning six states:

Note: Due to a change in FracTracker’s mapping utility, data from the last half of 2011 has been replaced by data from the first half of 2013 in the map above.  Please press the expanding arrows icon in the top-right corner of the map to access full controls.

One can only guess at the business decisions involved with the shipping of large quantities of waste from Pennsylvania to eastern New Jersey or southern West Virginia. In other shale plays, the majority of waste is disposed of through deep well injections nearby, but it has long been known that Pennsylvania’s geology is unsuitable for these wells (see page 67 of this 2009 report, for example). And the 4.0 New Year’s Eve temblor near caused by waste fluid injection near Youngstown, Ohio has residents and officials in the Buckeye State thinking much the same.

State receiving Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale waste produced from July to December 2011

In the chart above, solid waste is measured in tons while liquid waste is measured in barrels. In terms of solid waste, the majority–218,000 tons–is actually shipped out of state.  On the other hand, most of the liquid waste is dealt with in Pennsylvania (15.1 million barrels), but the 1.7 million barrels sent to Ohio is certainly significant. The 3.5 million barrels sent to an “unspecified location” is actually good news: the vast majority of that is recycled for use in subsequent wells. Not only does this give operators something constructive to do with the waste they produce, it also helps preserve fresh water resources in the region by offsetting water withdrawals.   Here is the same data arranged to show the various methods of disposal:

PA Marcellus Shale waste disposal by method, July-December 2011

While the recycling efforts are starting to make a dent in the overall picture of how Pennsylvania handles its Marcellus Shale waste fluids, it still far from being the primary means of disposal. In fact, two thirds of the liquid waste produced is still being treated at brine and industrial waste facilities, which have a questionable ability to remove total dissolved solids, heavy metals, and other contaminants from waste water, which ultimately works its way back into Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams.

NY Local Land Use Laws Upheld in Challenges to Municipal Drilling Prohibitions

Karen Edelstein, NYS FracTracker Liaison

Click to enlarge map

New York State has had a long history of natural gas drilling. The earliest gas wells were drilled in Fredonia, NY in 1825, and by 1857, engineers had discovered that if they fractured rock layers at the base of a gas well, the process stimulated greater flow of gas from the rock strata. Natural gas has been a common source of fuel for both heat and lighting for many years, and many rural properties in central and western New York have been leased and drilled. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation lists nearly 40,000 wells in their database. While slightly fewer than half of those wells are now plugged and abandoned, many are still in production. Virtually all of these wells are vertical, conventionally drilled gas wells.

In around 2005, a new wave of gas leasing began in New York State. Companies conducted seismic testing throughout the rural countryside, with “thumper trucks” moving in slow formations along town roads, and helicopters canvassing the region dropping their cargoes of cables that were unrolled across fields and forests to aid in further assessment. Simultaneously, “landsmen”—hired by the gas industries—were going door-to-door, offering leasing deals to homeowners. Promoting a rationale of “energy independence” and appealing signing bonuses, the landsmen were successful in convincing tens of thousands of rural New Yorkers to lease their land for natural gas. With a history of conventional, vertical gas drilling in the area, many landowners did not consider asking an attorney to review the new leases. Furthermore, no mention was made of the recently-developed process of gas extraction: high volume, slickwater, horizontal hydraulic fracturing (HVHF), a technique that industry would want to use for natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale.

As awareness about the new extraction process, combining high volume, chemically-enhanced, hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling, began to spread among New York State communities, local decision-makers and citizen groups became concerned about risks inherent to the method. Troubling stories of polluted air and drinking water, impacts to human- and livestock health, and economic and social woes connected with rapid industrialization of rural communities spread from Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas, and Wyoming, where HVHF was well underway.

Yet in New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) houses divisions that potentially work at cross-purposes with each other — one making laws that encourage mineral extraction, and the other that is supposed to oversee protection of land and water resources. Concerned citizens also became aware that changes to the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, promulgated during the recent Bush administration, now exempted oil and gas drilling. Would there be any legal means of standing up against potentially disastrous industrialization of our rural landscape?

Investigative journalists including Ian Urbina (New York Times) and Abram Lustgarten (ProPublica) published hard-hitting articles that time and again confirmed that New York had a lot to be concerned about if wide-spread HVHF were to come to our state. Scientists stepped forward with additional information that the DEC had not supplied in their draft environmental impact statements. Citizen committees formed to discuss both the science and the social implications of allowing wide-spread gas drilling in our communities.

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation laws prevent local governments from regulating oil and gas development. However, home rule rights are also accorded to local governments. While, by law, municipalities cannot regulate industry, many attorneys are now arguing that towns can, on behalf of the health and well-being of their constituents, determine land use laws through zoning and other ordinances. Some of these land use laws may result in effectively banning activities such as HVHF in those towns.

The towns of Dryden (in Tompkins County, NY), and Middlefield (in Otsego County, NY) were two of more than twenty towns that put laws in place in the past year that banned HVHF. In the fall of 2011, Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corporation sued the Town of Dryden, saying that state laws allowing for drilling pre-empted municipal laws. On February 21, 2012, State Supreme Court Judge Rumsey upheld Dryden’s right to set their own zoning regulations against HVHF stating, “Nowhere in legislative history provided to the court is there any suggestion that the Legislature intended — as argued by Anschutz — to encourage the maximum ultimate recovery of oil and gas regardless of other considerations, or to preempt local zoning authority.”

In Otsego County, the situation was slightly different. A local dairy farmer, who had leased her land sued the Town of Middlefield, asserting that the Town’s ban prevented her from enjoying the full value of her property. Just a week following the Dryden decision, a different judge ruled in the Middlefield case, and decided in favor of the town. Because drilling had not yet begun, the situation could not be considered a “takings.” The judge felt that while New York State can dictate (through regulations) how any industry operates, it is up to the town to decide where those industrial activities may take place.

Until the cases are heard in the Court of Appeals, these decisions stand as the opinion of the courts, but it is possible that there will be additional suits in the lower courts before a final decision is reached that will set the standard statewide. Nonetheless, the Dryden and Middlefield decisions clearly show that the lower courts support local community rights.

Although lawsuits are costly, the towns’ legal efforts have been supplemented by organizations that support the bans, and their costs have been reduced through the generous support of ordinary people. The prospect of additional suits has not deterred New York State’s municipalities from passing bans and moratoria preventing HVHF. To date, 21 towns have established bans, and more than 50 towns have enacted moratoria. Nearly 60 additional towns are in the process of developing bans or moratoria. See below for a map-in-progress within of the areas where bans and moratoria are in place or in development:

Progress of New York State towns enacting home rule to control impacts of high volume hydraulic fracturing for natural gas:

Oil and Gas Production and Waste Reports Available

Oil and gas production and waste reports for 2011 are now available for download at the PADEP Office of Oil and Gas Management website, and the Marcellus shale portion of that is now available on FracTracker’s DataTool as well:

Marcellus Shale production from July to December 2011. Click the gray compass rose and double carat to hide those fields.

The third dataset contains the production and waste data aggregated by county, as in the following chart:

Keep in mind that these totals are self-reported by drilling operators to the DEP.  Marcellus Shale waste and production data are released every six months, while non-Marcellus Shale data is released annually.  The following non Marcellus shale datasets are also available:

Statewide Production Totals

The following chart includes statewide production totals for 2011:

So Pennsylvania joins the trillion cubic foot (Tcf) club with 1.2 Tcf of natural gas produced, more than doubling the 2010 dry production value, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).  The EIA does not yet have state values for 2011 posted, but Pennsylvania’s 2011 total would have ranked eighth in 2010 behind  Texas (6.3 Tcf); Federal Offshore Gulf of Mexico (2.2 Tcf); Wyoming (2.2 Tcf); Louisiana (2.1 Tcf); Oklahoma (1.7 Tcf); Colorado (1.5 Tcf) and New Mexico (1.2 Tcf) for dry gas production.

Here is the reported waste for 2011:

Stay tuned to FracTracker for more analyses of these reports in the coming days and weeks.

2000 to 2010 Non Marcellus Waste Data

Yesterday, I provided our readers with a summary of long term non Marcellus Shale production data, which is self reported by the industry to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP has recently made this information available retroactive to 2000, at least for oil and gas wells not drilled into the Marcellus Shale.

The following charts show the total reported waste for non Marcellus Shale wells over time, from 2000 to 2010.

Non Marcellus Shale brine production in Pennsylvania: 2000 to 2010
Read more

Historical Production and Waste Data Added to DEP Site

Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Oil and Gas Management has added historical oil and gas production and waste data for non Marcellus Shale wells. This data is now available as far back as 2000.

I’ve made a couple of charts to illustrate production values for these wells over time.

Gas production per year, in billions of cubic feet (Bcf)
Read more

Movement of Pennsylvania’s non Marcellus Waste 2010

One of the biggest concerns about the Marcellus Shale industry in Pennsylvania is how to deal with all of the waste products that are created in the drilling, stimulation, and production of the wells. There are also more than 40,000 oil and gas wells from other formations in the Commonwealth that reported waste production to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) last year. Whether this waste ultimately found itself into publicly owned treatment works, industrial waste treatment facilities, injection wells, or spread on roadways, it almost always has to be shipped to a different location, sometimes hundreds of miles away.

For more information on specific facilities that accepted non Marcellus waste in 2010, click on one of the maps below, then use our information tool (“i” icon) and click on any map icon.


Movement of non MS Brine Waste in PA for 2010 (large)

Yellow dots indicate wells that reported brine production, and red squares are receiving facilities. The green lines are the paths that the waste takes, as the crow flies. Darker lines indicate larger quantities of brine, which are measured in barrels. For more information on specific features, please click the map for a zoomable, dynamic view.

Statewide, almost 4.5 million barrels of brine was produced by non Marcellus Shale wells in 2010, which was transported over 900,000 miles as the crow flies(1) from the various wells to the facility locations, with an average one way trip of about 30 miles.

Facilities accepting the most brine from non Marcellus wells in PA in 2010

Drill Cuttings

Only one operator reported drill cutting waste from a total of three wells. All of this type of waste went to the same facility. Geographic coordinates were not included for the receiving facility in the data, so mapping and distance measurements were not performed for this analysis. Suffice it to say, however, that the amounts discussed are relatively small compared to brine and other types of waste.

Facility accepting drill cutting waste from non Marcellus wells in PA in 2010

Drilling Fluid

Movement of Drilling Fluid Waste for non MS Wells in PA In 2010 (large)
The color scheme for this map similar to that of brine, above, but in this view, yellow dots indicate wells producing drilling fluid waste.

More than 300,000 barrels of drilling fluid was produced last year from non Marcellus Shale wells in Pennsylvania. That waste traveled over 18,500 miles as the crow flies en route to its receiving facilities.

Facilities accepting the most drilling fluid from non Marcellus wells in PA in 2010

Frac Fluid

Movement of Frac Fluid Wate for non MS Wells in PA for 2010 (large)
The color scheme for this map similar to that of brine, above, but in this view, yellow dots indicate wells producing frac fluid waste.

While the term “frac fluid” is often used to refer to the chemical additives that are used along with water and sand to hydraulically fracture a well, in terms of the waste report, it refers to the flowback water. This type of waste contains the other type of frac fluid, but at significantly reduced quantities.

Last year, non Marcellus Shale wells reported producing over 499,000 barrels of frac fluid waste, which traveled almost 82,000 linear miles to receiving facilities, with the average one way trip being about 40 miles in length.

Facilities accepting the most frac fluid waste from non Marcellus wells ion PA in 2010

  1. Please note, for each distance analysis, only wells from the waste production report which included decimal degree data for both the wells and receiving facilities were included. Therefore, the distances are being understated. For example, only about 29,500 of the more than 40,500 non Marcellus wells that produced brine last year are included in this figure, or about 73 percent.