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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.

PA Marcellus Drilled Wells Data Updated

A few days ago, I talked about the nebulous situation in trying to determine just how many Marcellus Shale permits there are in Pennsylvania. Many of the same concerns with permits can lead to multiple occurrences on the spud report which is the source of the drilled well data in Pennsylvania.

Without going into all the monotonous details once again, as of February 1, 2012, there were 4,534 records on the spud report, representing 4,274 distinct wells.  The following are depictions of the larger number, both spatially and temporally.


Drilled Marcellus Shale wells in Pennsylvania. To hide the menus, please click on the gray compass rose and double carat (^) icons.

Animating Data: A Different Way to Look at Marcellus Shale Drilling

by Josh Knauer, CEO of Rhiza

At Rhiza, we love to experiment with new ways of visualizing data that help tell better data stories. In most of our work environments, using data is kind of difficult and visualizing is usually left to data experts. We’d love to see a future where sharing data visualizations (maps, charts, explanations, etc) is as easy as recording and sharing a video on YouTube. Not everything produced will be stellar in quality, but at least we’ll all be a lot further down the road towards breaking down the traditional data silos and moving data aggregation and visualization solely out of the hands of database admins and graphic designers. We’ll still need those folks, their jobs will just get a lot more fun!

To this end, when I saw a data animation created by John Detwiler that showed the spread of drilled Marcellus shale gas wells in Bradford County, I wanted to create my own data animation telling the same story, but for the entire state of Pennsylvania… Read more»

Updated Drilled Wells Data for PA

Three drilled wells datasets for Pennsylvania have been updated or created, including:

The last of the three datasets is the most unique, with data spatially joined to municipalities. The following two maps exhibit the Marcellus Shale related data that they contain:


Number of Marcellus Shale wells per PA municipalities as of December 16, 2011. Click the gray compass rose and double carat (^) to hide those menus. Then click the information tool (the blue “i”) then any map feature for more information.


Number of Marcellus Shale wells in PA municipalities per square mile, as of December 16, 2011. Area calculation performed in PA State Plane South.

Violations per Well by Operator, Part 2: Bad Actors

Recently, I conducted an analysis of the legacy of each Marcellus Shale operator’s violations over time, normalized by the number of wells each company has drilled, in a metric that I call Violations per Well, or VpW. While that analysis was cumulative, I’ve had FracTracker readers ask if the VpW from one year predicts the VpW for the following year, particularly among the bad actors. To help answer that question, I’ve taken the same raw data from the previous post, and recompiled it to help address that.

I’ve been looking at violations per well for some time, on the theory that it can be used to help score a company’s compliance history with regards to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which issues them. All of these wells and violations are Marcellus Shale specific, and come from sources posted on the DEP website.

For ease of use, I’ve color coded the results, with bright green being the best scores, and bright red being the worst. Companies without wells for a given year are indicated in pale blue. They may either indicate drilling operators that were inactive in a given year, or midstream companies that haven’t drilled any well. Here’s the color coded key:

And here are the results:

To look at the bad actors from 2010, I selected all of the entries that were colored burgundy or bright red for that year’s VpW score. How have they fared so far in 2011?

To be fair, I should point out that operators with very few wells can get obnoxious VpW scores in a hurry. On the other hand, there were 14 Marcellus Shale operators with at least one well drilled in 2010 that didn’t get any violations that year. Therefore, in this instance, I’ve included all operators with a VpW of 1.00 or greater, and will leave questions about sample size up to the reader.

Five of the operators with VpW scores of 1.00 or higher haven’t drilled any wells at all in 2011 so far. In fact, all of them had VpW scores of at least 2.50. There may be a variety of reason for their absence in 2011, but honestly, their lack of compliance isn’t missed.

Nine operators improved from 2010 to 2011, four of which improved all the way into green categories. This is the result that we want to see, where companies appear to be responsive to violations issued by the DEP. Notable among this group is Citrus Energy, which had a huge amount of violations compared to one drilled well in 2010, to a VpW score under 0.50 so far in 2011. Also, PA Gen Energy is an operator with a significant number of wells that went from a red to a green category, which is encouraging to see. Cabot, on the other hand, barely budged, and remains over 2.00 violations per well.

There are also three operators from 2010 with VpW scores of 1.00 or greater that actually got worse in 2011. And keep in mind, the data used includes almost two more months of drilled wells than violations, so inclusion in this group is especially dubious. They include Rice Drilling B, whose VpW more than duobled to 2.13; XTO, which went from awful to horrific since becoming a subsidiary of ExxonMobil; and Ultra Resources, whose performance has been nothing short of ghastly in 2011. Luckily, Ultra has been leaving the Keystone State alone since January–let’s hope it stays that way.

I maintain that since so many operators–big and small–are able to keep their violations to wells ratio at less than 1:2, all of the operators that operate in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale should try to reach that standard.  Those that show a continued disregard for our laws protecting our environment should face stiff fines for their complacency, while those operators that average more than two violations per well drilled over a prolonged period of time need to be banned.

Drilled Marcellus Shale Wells per Month

The following chart takes a look at the number of drilled Marcellus Shale wells in Pennsylvania, from 2006 through November, 2011. The accompanying trend line is included, not so much to predict December’s total, but to show the relatively decent R2 value.  That is to say, despite the occasional peaks (e.g., September 2010) and troughs (e.g., November 2010), the number of Marcellus Shale wells drilled per month has been increasing in a fairly orderly manner over the past 4 years and 8 months.

Actually, the best Excel trendline was a sixth order polynomial, with an R2 value of .087, but that’s getting fairly silly relative to my purposes here.

However, when you use the same data but only look at the last 24 months, the results are far more erratic. Once again, the highest R2 value was from a polynomial trendline. But that value wasn’t very high at all:

Once again, I don’t think the equation itself is that important, but the 0.18 R2 value is pretty low. Even the sixth order polynomial, with three peaks and three troughs, has an R2 value of only 0.34.

While the first chart shows an industry that is steadily accelerating, the second one shows…I don’t know.  I’m hesitant to offer interpretations.  My sense is that even though the R2 value is surprisingly low compared to the first chart, it doesn’t actually mean that much. Visually assessing the chart, it doesn’t seem to be a seasonal fluctuation, but there are mini-clusters of months with higher amounts of drilling activity, and those with lower amounts as well.  Certainly, the trendline is higher this month that it was two years ago, but not dramatically so.