Pennsylvania 2010 Oil and Gas Violation on FT’s DataTool

2010 Oil and Gas Violations per Drilled Well (small)
All oil and gas violations issued by the PA DEP in 2010, divided by the number of wells drilled in the same time frame, by county. Please click the map for a larger, dynamic view.

Two new violation datasets are up on FracTracker’s DataTool: 2010 Oil and Gas Violations in PA and 2010 Violations by County. The first set includes the raw data from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)(1), and the second set includes violation and other oil and gas data at the county level.

Well Violation Data

See the legend for description of well type. Please click the gray tabs with the compass rose and the double carat (^) to hide those menus. for information on specific wells, click the “i” tool then any map feature.

There are a number of problems with this dataset. Altogether, there were 3,273 violations, but the total number of unique wells that represents is not known, because 271 of the violations didn’t even have a valid well API number associated with it. Since this data does not contain longitude, latitude, well type, or any indicators as to whether the violating wells were Marcellus Shale wells or horizontally drilled, none of this information can be known about these 271 violations.

2010 Oil and Gas Violations: Marcellus Shale, Other Formations, and Unknown Wells

In fact, of the remaining 3,011 violations, 665 are from wells where the API number do not match a compilation of over 40,000 permits from 1998 to 2010 which has been published on the DEP website. It’s a pity, since the rate of violations per offending well is lower than either of the other category then we must say that this value for both Marcellus Shale and non Marcellus Shale wells are overstated. We just don’t know by how much.

Violations per offending well type, January 2007 to September 2010

However, in a previous analysis over a 40 month period (including a nine month overlap with this data), the number of violations per offending wells were fairly comparable to the 2010 data. In the older dataset, offending Marcellus Shale wells were likely to have 1.47 times as many violations as their non Marcellus counterparts, and in the current data, that number is 1.44.

The most frequent violations are as follows:

Most frequently cited oil and gas violations in 2010 (2)

Here are the five wells which were issued the most citations in 2010:

Wells with most violations issued by the PA DEP in 2010

County Level Violation Data

The 2010 Violations by County dataset linked to above contains a wealth of county level oil and gas data for Pennsylvania. Also included are the number of drilled wells in 2010, July 2010 to December 2010 Marcellus Shale production data (3), as well as ratios of violations to both categories.

2010 Marcellus Shale Violations per Drilled Well (large)
2010 Marcellus Shale (MS) violations per 2010 MS well drilled. Please click the image for a dynamic view.

2010 Violations per Non Marcellus Shale Well (large)
2010 non MS violations per 2010 non MS drilled well. Please click the image for a dynamic view.

To my mind, it is notable that Washington and Green Counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania both have relatively few violations per well, despite the fact that they are both in the top five counties in terms of Marcellus Shale production.

Speaking of production, let’s take a look at that. While violations per well can give you an idea of what to expect for any new well in a geographic area, production from the Marcellus Shale is uneven. Some may argue that industry violations are more permissible in areas that yield more gas. Whether that argument holds water for you or not, violation per production amount is still a useful cost-benefit tool.

2010 MS Violations per Bcf of Gas Produced (large)
2010 MS violations per billion cubic feet (Bcf) produced by the MS between July 2010 and December 2010. Counties with at least 5 Bcf of production in that period are outlined in red. Please click the image for a dynamic view.

As was the case in Utah, a pattern is emerging where the most violations come from areas where drilling is relatively less well established or productive. None of the seven counties with at least 5 Bcf produced (outlined in red) are near the top of the violations per Bcf map.

  1. The dataset required heavy formatting to be transformed into a usable file. If you look at the original data linked above, you will note that there are boxes, in which values listed at the top apply to all boxes in that range. There are Excel tricks to allow for automatically filling these boxes, yet those could lead to significant error. There are instances where the box ends, but the spaces below are blank as well. My interpretation of this is that that values outside of the box are intended to be blank. It would be preferable if the DEP output filled in all of these cells appropriately, not only saving time, but reducing the chance for errors, and removing viewer interpretation as a factor in the dataset.
  2. The large number of “Failure to plug a well upon abandonment” for the “Unknown Formation” category may suggest that most of these wells are non Marcellus Shale, as many of those wells are older and more likely to be abandoned. In retrospect, I might have gotten more well number matches if I had used the PASDA list, which includes wells older than 1998, and last I checked, has over 120,000 wells in their database. PASDA data includes location, but no indication of whether the wells are Marcellus Shale or horizontally drilled.
  3. Unfortunately, there is no way to separate out Marcellus Shale production for the first half of the year, the data for which had been formatted to reflect a July to June fiscal year. Also, as of this writing, no production data for non Marcellus Shale wells for any part of 2010 is available.