Comparing Unconventional Drilling in Southwestern PA
By Matt Unger, GIS Intern, FracTracker Alliance
We recently received a request for unconventional (fracking) drilling data in Southwestern Pennsylvania counties and municipalities. Specifically, the resident wanted to know the following information:
- Number of drilled wells in Southwestern PA counties, and in each municipality,
- How many wells are producing natural gas in each municipality, and
- The number of well violations reported there.
The following counties in Southwestern PA were studied (based on available electronic data): Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland.
The well production data was compiled from a production report found on the Pennsylvania DEP Office of Oil and Gas website. This report detailed production values from unconventional gas wells statewide from January 2014 – June 2014. The well violation data was compiled using the Pennsylvania DEP Office of Oil and Gas’s interactive Oil and Gas Compliance report. From here, a compliance report was created using the following criteria: All PA regions, counties, and municipalities, all well operators, unconventional wells only, and wells inspected from 1/1/2000 – 9/9/2014.
Drilling Data Trends
Once all of the data was compiled, we created a spreadsheet that included a ratio of violations/wells for each municipality and county. Below are a few observations that stood out to us, followed by possible explanations for what has been reported.
- Slightly less than 1/3 of all wells drilled in the 11 counties selected for this analysis have committed some sort of violation (.31).
- The ratio of violations to wells drilled in Somerset County is 1.38, by far the largest ratio discovered. This means than more than one violation has been cited for every well drilled in that area, but that does not mean that every well carries with it a violation. The second largest ratio would be Cambria County at 1.00.
- If you break down the numbers and look at municipality trends, the largest violation/wells ratio by municipality is found in Stewart Township, Fayette County (9.00). There have been 18 reported violations in association with the 2 wells drilled in the area.
- Of the 60 municipalities that recorded no violations, South Buffalo Township in Armstrong County has the most wells drilled with 20.
- Across the 11 counties studied, Allegheny County has the lowest ratio of violation/wells (.007).
- Violations were reported in Somerset Township, Somerset County. No wells were drilled in this area, however.
- Violations were reported in Wayne Township, Greene County, yet no wells were reported to be drilled in the municipality.
Explaining Some Data Caveats
Why is Allegheny County seeing such a low violation/well ratio?
Across the 11 counties studied, Allegheny County has the lowest ratio of violation/wells (.007).
Allegheny is the most populated county studied in Southwestern PA. Oil and gas drillers in the county, therefore, have the largest audience watching them. This may be encouraging the drillers to be more cautious or follow rules and regulations more strictly. Another possible explanation is that inspectors may be more lenient when reporting violations in in Allegheny County. Additionally, drillers operating primarily in Allegheny County may be are more likely to or are more capable of drilling according to the regulations. A final possibility is that Allegheny County is one of the last counties in this region to be heavily drilled, perhaps allowing for more best practices to be implemented on site compared to well pads established early on.
Violations With No Wells?
Violations were reported in Somerset Township, Somerset County. No wells were drilled in this area, however. These violations could have occurred when constructing the well pad. If construction has stopped at this site since the violation, there would not have been any wells drilled. Additionally, there may be an error in the dataset as to the actual location (e.g. county) of the well pad.
Violations were reported in Wayne Township, Greene County, yet no wells were reported to be drilled in the municipality. The PA DEP has informed FracTracker that these violations were actually reported for a well pad located in Center Township, Greene County. The entry for Wayne Township was a recording error on their part. Our data has been updated to reflect the proper number of violations reported in Center Township, as well as the removal of any activity in Wayne Township.
Download the Spreadsheet
The spreadsheet we supplied to this resident can be downloaded as a compliance report.
Updated PA Map
Explore our map of PA unconventional wells and violations by clicking on the map below:
Last updated: September 19, 2014
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