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Mapping California’s State Bill 4 (SB4) Well Stimulation Notices

By Kyle Ferrar, CA Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

Introduction

California passed State Bill 4 (SB4) in September, 2013 to develop and establish a regulatorySanta Barbara Channel_10.7.13 structure for unconventional resource extraction (hydraulic fracturing, acidizing, and other stimulation techniques) for the state.   As a feature of the current version of the regulations, oil and gas drilling/development operators are required to notify the California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), as well as neighboring property owners, 30 days prior to stimulating an oil or gas well.  In addition to property owners having the right to request baseline water sampling within the the following 20 days, DOGGR posts the well stimulation notices to their website.

Current State of Oil and Gas Production

The DOGGR dataset of well stimulation notices was downloaded, mapped, the dataset explored, and well-site proximity to certain sites of interest were evaluated using GIS techniques. First, the newest set of well stimulation notices, posted 1/17/14 were compared to a previous version of the same dataset, downloaded 12/27/13. When the two datasets are compared there are several distinct differences. The new dataset has an additional field identifying the date of permit approval and fields for latitude/longitude coordinates. This is an improvement, but there is much more data collected in the DOGGR stimulation notification forms that can be provided digitally in the dataset, including sources of water, amount of water used for stimulation, disposal methods, etc… An additional 60 wells have been added to the dataset, making the total count now 249 stimulation notices, with 37 stimulated by acid matrix (acidizing), 212 hydraulically fractured, and 3 by both. Of the 249, 59 look to be new wells as the API identifcation numbers are not listed in the DOGGR “AllWells.zip” database here, while 187 are reworks of existing wells. A difference of particular interest is the discrepancy in latitudes and longitudes listed for several well-sites. The largest discrepancy shows a difference of almost 10,000 feet for an Aera Energy well (API 3051341) approved for stimulation December 23, 2013. The majority of the well stimulations (246/249) are located in Kern County, and the remaining three are located in Ventura County.

Figure 1. Stimulation Notices and Past/Present Oil and Gas Wells
Click on the arrows in the upper right hand corner of the map for the legend and to view the map fullscreen.

Well Spacing

As can be seen in Figure 1, the well stimulations are planned for heavily developed oil and gas fields where hydraulic fracturing has been used by operators in the past. California is the 4th largest oil producing state in the nation, which means a high density of oil and gas wells. Many other states limit the amount of wells drilled in a set amount of space in support of safer development and extraction. In Ohio, unconventional wells (>4,000 foot depths) have a 1,000 foot spacing requirement , West Virginia has a 3,000 foot requirement for deep wells , and the Texas Railroad Commission has set a 1,200 foot well spacing requirement. Using Texas’s setback as an example buffer for analysis, 241/249 of the DOGGR new stimulations are within 1,200 feet of an active oil and gas well. Of the 364 hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells DOGGR has listed as “New” (they are not yet producing, but are permitted and may be in development), 351 are within 1,200 feet of a well identified in DOGGR’s database as an active oil and gas well. One of the industry promoted benefits of using stimulations such as hydraulic fracturing is the ability to decrease the number of well-sites necessary to extract resources and therefore decrease the surface impact of wells. This does not look to be the practice in California.

Environmental Media

Following this initial review of oil and gas production/development, three additional maps were created to visualize the environmental media threatened by contamination events such as fugitive emissions, spills or well-casing failures. The maps are focused on themes of freshwater resources, ambient air quality, and conservation areas.

Freshwater Resources

Figure 2. New Wells, Stimulation Notices and California’s Freshwater Resources
Click on the arrows in the upper right hand corner of the map for the legend and to view the map fullscreen.

Freshwater resources are limited in arid regions of California, and the state is currently suffering from the worst drought on record. In light of these issues, the FracMapper map “New Well Stimulations and California Freshwater Resources” includes map layers focused on groundwater withdrawals, groundwater availability, Class II wastewater injection wells, watershed basins, and the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) National Hydrography Data-set (NHD). Since California does not have a buffer rule for streams and waterways, we used the setback regulation from Pennsylvania for an analysis of the proximity of the well stimulation notices to streams and rivers. In Pennsylvania, 300 feet is the minimum setback allowed for hydraulic fracturing near recognized surface waters. Of the 246 wells listed for new stimulation, 26 are within 300 feet of a waterway identified in the USGS’s NHD. The watersheds layer shows the drainage areas for these well locations. As a side note, the state of Colorado does not allow well-sites located within 100 year flood plains after the flash floods in September 2013 that caused over 890 barrels of oil condensates to be spilled into waterways. Also featured in Figure 2 are the predominant shallow aquifers in California. The current well stimulations posted by DOGGR are located in the Elk Hills (Occidental Inc.), Lost Hills (Chevron), Belridge and Ventura (both Aera Production) oil fields and have all exempted out of a groundwater monitoring plans based on aquifer exemptions, even though the aquifers are a source of irrigation for the neighboring agriculture.   Stimulation notices by Vintage Production in the Rose oil field, located in crop fields on farms, are accompanied by a groundwater and surface water monitoring plan. Take notice of the source water wells on the map that provide freshwater for both the acidizing and hydraulic fracturing operations and the Class II oil and gas wastewater injection wells that dispose of the produced waters. Produced wastewaters may also be injected into Class II enhanced oil recovery water flood wells, and several of the stimulation notices have indicated the use of produced waters for hydraulic fracturing.

Ambient Air Quality

Figure 3. California New Wells, Stimulation Notices and Air Quality
Click on the arrows in the upper right hand corner of the map for the legend and to view the map fullscreen.

Impacts to ambient air quality resulting from oil and gas fields employing stimulation techniques have been documented in areas like Wyoming’s Upper Green River Basin , the Uintah Basin of Utah , and the city of Dish, Texas . Typically, ozone is considered a summertime issue in urban environments, but the biggest threat to air quality in these regions has been elevated concentrations of ozone, particularly in the winter time. Ozone levels in these regions have been measured at concentrations higher than would typically be seen in Los Angeles or New York City. In Figure 3, the state and federal ozone attainment layers show that the areas with the highest concentrations of “new” wells and the DOGGR New Stimulation Notices do not pass ambient air criteria standards to qualify as “attainment” status for either state or federal ambient ozone compliance, meaning their ambient concentrations reach levels above health standards. Other air pollutants known to be released during oil and gas development, stimulation, and production include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX); carbon monoxide (CO); hydrogen sulfide (H2S), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), and sulfur dioxide (SO2), and methane (CH4), a potent greenhouse gas. It is important to point out that ground level ozone is not emitted directly but rather is created by chemical reactions between NOx and VOCs. Besides ozone, all these other air pollutants are in “attainment” in California except NOx in Los Angeles County. There have not been any stimulation notices posted in Los Angeles County, but the South Coast Air Quality Monitoring District identifies 662 recent wells that have been stimulated using hydraulic fracturing, acidizing, or gravel packing. See the Local Actions map of California for these well sites.

Conservation Areas

Figure 4. New Wells, Stimulation Notices and Conservation Areas
Click on the arrows in the upper right hand corner of the map for the legend and to view the map fullscreen.

The map in Figure 4, “New Well Stimulations and Conservation Lands”, features land use planning maps developed by California and Federal agencies for conservation of the environment for multiple uses, ranging from recreation to farming and agriculture.  Many of the Stimulation Notices as well as “new” well sites located in Kern County are located in or along the boundary of the San Joaquin Valley Conservation Opportunity; land identified by the California Department of Fish and Game, Parks and Recreations, and Transportation (Caltrans) as important for wildlife connectivity. Oil and gas development inevitably results in loss of habitat for native species. Habitat disturbance and fragmentation of the natural ecosystems can pose risks particularly for endangered species like the San Joaquin Kit Fox, California Condor, and the blunt-nosed leopard lizards.

The California Rangeland Priority Conservation Areas layer was created to identify the most important areas for priority efforts to conserve the Oak Savannah grasslands of high diversity that host many grassland birds, native plants, and threatened vernal pool species. The areas of high biodiversity value are marked in red as “critical conservation areas”. The majority of the new well stimulations are encroaching on the borders of these “critical areas,” particularly in the Belridge oil field. The CA Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program map layer rates land according to soil quality to analyze impacts on California’s agricultural resources. The majority of new stimulations and new oil wells are located on the border of areas designated as “prime farmland,” particularly the Belridge and Lost Hills fields. The Rose field on the other hand is located within the “prime farmland” and “farmland of statewide importance.” Also, well-sites from all fields in Kern County are located on Williamson Act Agricultural Preserve Land Parcels. By enrolling in the program these areas can take advantage of reduced tax rates as they are important buffers to reduce urban sprawl and over-development. Although the point of the act was to protect California’s important farmland and agriculture, some parcels enrolled in the Williamson Agricultural Preserve Act program even house stimulation notice sites and “new” hydraulically fractured wells.

Discussion

While allowing hydraulic fracturing, acidizing and other stimulations until January 1, 2015 under temporary regulations, SB4 requires the state of California to complete an Environmental Impact Review (EIR). New regulations will then be developed on the recommendations of the EIR. The regulations will be enforced by the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), the agency currently responsible for issuing drilling permits to operators in the state. In some municipalities of California, an additional “land-use” development permit is required from the local land-use agency (Air district, Water District, County, other local municipality or any combination) for an operator to be granted permission to drill a well. In most areas of California a “land-use” permit is not required, and only the state permit from DOGGR is necessary. A simple explanation is DOGGR grants the permit for everything that occurs underground, and in some locations a separate regulatory body approves the permit for what occurs above the ground at the surface. The exceptions are San Benito County which has a 500 foot setback from roads and buildings, Santa Cruz County, which passed a moratorium, Santa Barbara with a de facto ban*, and the South Coast Air quality Monitoring District’s notification requirements, permitting a well stimulation (such as “fracking” or “acidizing”).  For the rest of the state permitting a well  stimulation is essentially the same as permitting a conventional well-site, although it should be recognized that some counties like Ventura have setback and buffer provisions for all (conventional and unconventional) oil and gas wells. Additionally, DOGGR’s provisional regulations do require chemical disclosures to FracFocus and public notifications to local residents 30 days in advance, but lacks public health and safety provisions such as setbacks, continuous air monitoring, and the majority of wells in the notices are exempt from groundwater monitoring,   While public notifications and chemical disclosures are all important for liability and tracking purposes, they are no substitute for environmental and engineering standards of practice including setbacks and other primary protection regulations to prevent environmental contamination. The state-sponsored EIR is intended to inform these types of rules, but that leaves a year of development without these protections.
*Santa Barbara County requires all operators using hydraulic fracturing to obtain an oil drilling production plan from the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission. No operator has applied for a permit since the rule’s passing in 2011.

References

  1. DOGGR. 2014. Welcome to the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.  Accessed 1/28/14.
  2. Lawriter Ohio Laws and Rules. 2010. 1501:9-1-04 Spacing of wells. Accessed 1/29/14.
  3. WVDNR. 2013. Regulations. Accessed 1/29/14.
  4. Railroad Commission of Texas. 2013. Texas Administrative Code. Accessed 1/28/14.
  5. PADEP. 2013. Act 13 Frequently Asked Questions.  Accessed 1/29/14.
  6. U.S.EPA. 2008. Wyoming Area Designations for the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Accessed 1/29/14.
  7. UT DEQ. 2014. Uintah Basin. Accessed 1/29/14.
  8. UT DEQ. 2012. 2012 Uintah Basin Winter Ozone & Air Quality Study.
  9. Wolf Eagle Environmental. 2009. Town of Dish, TX Ambient Air Monitoring Analysis.
WV Field Visits 2013

FrackFinders Wanted

Unconventional drilling waste impoundment

A partner in data-crunching, SkyTruth, is seeking volunteers to find waste impoundments from unconventional oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

SkyTruth is our “eye in the sky” when it comes to tracking everything from the plume of the BP Oil Spill to flaring in the Bakken. They use remote sensing and mapping technologies to better understand the extent and impacts from a wide spectrum of industrial activities.

With the rapid increase in unconventional drilling in PA since 2005, this endeavor is incredibly important; waste impoundments may release chemicals into the air that are dangerous to health. To assess the true impacts, however, we need to know how close people are living to these potential air pollution sources.

As anyone who has seen a drilling site knows, hydraulic fracturing (e.g. fracking) requires a lot of water and often produces a lot of waste. This means that to map where all of the waste impoundments are located in PA will require many volunteers. The beauty of crowdsourcing is that a group can contribute a significantly larger number of observations much more quickly than could ever be possible with a few non-profit staffers.

“What can I do?” SkyTruth needs your well-trained eyes for their new project called FrackFinder PA: Project Moor Frog. In the comfort of your home, they’ll ask you to identify ponds that are large enough to be a part of oil and gas extraction activities from satellite photos taken above the sites.  Learn more  | Get involved  |  Data results

Texas Drought Conditions and Water Availability

By Thomas DiPaolo, GIS Intern, FracTracker Alliance –

For the last three years, Texas has been experiencing a drought so severe that it has gained media attention around the world; the recurring theme from each media report is that the water use of the oil and natural gas industry is sucking up so much water from the ground that towns like Barnhart are seeing their taps run dry.


To view the fullscreen version of this map, including details about each layer, click here.

Surface Water

Water data for Texas, owned and operated by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), defines “reservoir storage” as the total volume of water contained within a reservoir, while “conservation storage” is specifically the volume of water that can be accessed and moved out of the reservoir. For example, the Twin Buttes Reservoir currently has 2,095 acre-feet of water in its reservoir storage, but because it cannot be removed from the reservoir, in terms of conservation storage it is considered “empty.” Twin Buttes is not the only reservoir in this position; Electra Lake, Meredith Lake, and White River Lake are also empty, and Electra Lake has no water at all in its reservoir storage. The average conservation storage of reservoirs statewide is 168,704.64 acre-feet. Ninety-two reservoirs (including the aforementioned) have less than that amount, while six reservoirs have conservation storages in excess of 1 million acre-feet. For reference, a TWDB report from last year found that in 2011 statewide fracking operations used a combined total of 81,500 acre-feet of water, over 26.5 billion gallons. That is almost enough to consume the conservation storage of the ten smallest reservoirs in the state.

The other measure for comparing water quantity is “fullness percentage,” a ratio between a reservoir’s current conservation storage and the maximum volume of water it can hold without flooding, or maximum conservation storage. Any reservoir with no conservation storage, therefore, has a fullness of 0%, while overflowing reservoirs are only 100% full. This means that, in contrast to the four reservoirs with 0% fullness, four other reservoirs have complete fullness. Monticello Reservoir, Mountain Creek Lake, and Squaw Creek Reservoir are all in excess of their conservation storages, but Houston Lake is flooding by the greatest amount, with reservoir storage of 139,409 acre-feet and conservation storage of 128,054 acre-feet. The average reservoir is  56.01% full as of this writing, but 44 of 115 reservoirs have a lower proportion of fullness. The problem here isn’t that every reservoir is under threat: it’s that those reservoirs which are threatened are running on empty.

Water Restrictions

Fig1The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency, publishes a list of drought-affected public water systems and their restrictions, classifying them by “stage” and “priority” (Figure 1). Stage refers to the expected duration of the existing water supply, while priority reflects the degree to which residents’ water usage is being restricted. This means water systems with no immediate threat of their supplies expiring may be applying extreme restrictions to sustain that supply. Water systems in the highest stage of “Emergency” have at most 45 days before their water supplies are exhausted; a priority of “Severe” means the water system has forbidden all outdoor water usage and may limit individual residents’ usage if they believe it’s necessary. At the time of this writing, 442 water systems have instituted voluntary restrictions on water usage, but 44 systems have a Severe priority, and five of those are in a stage of Emergency.

Of those systems, only the White River Municipal Water District appears in the map above within the data layer of public water systems offered by the TCEQ, and it lies within 20 miles of eight different fracking wells1. According to FracFocus.org, these eight wells consumed a combined volume of almost 600,000 gallons of water, or 1.8 acre-feet, when they were first fractured. While that amount may sound low, FracFocus shows 1,557 fracking wells within the state of Texas, and White River is located about 100 miles from the major oil fields of west Texas, where individual wells commonly consumed millions of gallons of water. For eight wells combined, 600,000 gallons is at the bottom of the scale.

FracFocus also notes that these figures do not take into account the amount of fresh water used in drilling. As freshwater becomes scarcer, hydraulic fracturing operations are turning to brackish water, which contains salt or other minerals, and water recycled from previous gas wells: the TWDB estimated that 17,000 of the 81,500 acre-feet of water used in 2011 was either brackish or recycled, and water recycling specifically is on the rise ever since the Texas legislature removed the need to seek permits before recycling water on leased land. FTS International reports that some of its Texas wells have completely switched over to recycled water.

It remains to be seen how soon efforts like this will bring relief to towns like Barnhart.


Footnotes

1. The eight wells in question are Bryant B-1045, etal #4576; Bryant B-1045, etal #4578; Flores, etal #182; Rankin #etal 161; Rankin, etal #172; Wheeler-1046, #4666; Wheeler-1046, #4678; and Williams, etal #4570. Reports on all of them can be found on FracFocus by searching for Crosby County, Texas.

Offshore oil and gas development in CA - Photo by Linda Krop Environmental Defense Center

Hydraulic Fracturing Offshore Wells on the California Coast

By Kyle Ferrar, CA Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

Dirty Water by EDCOn October 16th, the Environmental Defense Center released a report focused on the use of hydraulic fracturing by offshore oil drilling platforms off the coast of California.1 The full report can be found on the EDC’s website. I was asked to assist in creating the report’s GIS maps, the results of which are described partially in the article below and are shown on the right.  An interactive map of this data, overlaid with additional data layers including oil spills and offshore wells is below.

Regulation of Offshore Drilling

California has 24 offshore oil rigs, with only one of them located, and therefore regulated, in state waters. In the map below, the regulated platform is labeled as “Holly.” The rest of the platforms, including platform “A” which was responsible for the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969, are located in federal waters beyond the “outer continental shelf” (OCS) boundary, shown in the map with a dashed line.

Santa Barbara Channel_10.7.13

International, federal, and state laws are interrelated legal regimes that impact development of offshore oil, gas and other mineral resources in the US. Governance is bifurcated between state and federal law. States have authority in the “three-geographical-mile” area extending from their coasts. Federal regulatory regime governs minerals located under federal waters that extend out past state boundaries at least 200nautical miles from shore.  This is known as the “exclusive economic zone,” for which coastal nations have the sovereign right to explore, exploit, conserve, and manage marine resources. The basis for most federal regulations is the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), which provides the system for offshore oil and gas exploration, leasing, and ultimate development. Regulations range from health, safety, resource conservation and environmental standards to requirements for production-based royalties and in some cases royalty relief and other development incentives. The moratoria on offshore leasing on many areas of the outer continental shelf were lifted in 2008 by President Bush and the 110th congress. Prior to that, several areas were made available for leasing in 2006 including the Aleutians and the Gulf. Recent changes to authorities regulating offshore development resulted after the Mineral Management Service was implicated in numerous scandals, including uncollected royalties estimated to amount to $160 million in 2006 alone.2 Offshore resource extraction is now regulated by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, both agencies of the Department of the Interior.

Investigating Hydraulic Fracturing

Point Conception Offshore Rigs_10.7.13

A recent freedom of information act request filed by the Environmental Defense Center (the group was formed in response to the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill) identified 15 offshore drilling operations that used hydraulic fracturing. (Update: recent information from the FOIA shows 203 frac’ing operations from 6 different rig platforms!)4.  This number is most likely a vast underestimation, as the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) estimates 12% of offshore operations in the Gulf use hydraulic fracturing. These “frac” operations were conducted without notifying the necessary regulatory agencies. The majority of this activity was conducted from the platforms Gilda and Gail, both labeled in the maps. While these offshore energy resources may be oil-rich, the fossil fuel resources pale in comparison to the biodiversity and ecological productivity of the Santa Barbara Channel and the California Channel Islands. The geography of the Channel Islands was formed by the cold-water swells of Northern California meeting with the warm-water swells of Southern California. This convergence resulted in a plethora of ecological microcosms in addition to the critical and sensitive habitats of endangered and threatened species shown in the maps.

Recently, the Department of the Interior approved four more hydraulic fracturing operations at these offshore platforms. Take note of the many ecological preserves and areas of protected/sensitive habitat in the midst of the many offshore wells and platforms. The map layer showing historic oil spills deserves special attention, with focus on the spills at platforms Gail and Gilda. Seeing this, it is alarming that the proposals were not required to conduct environmental impact assessments, and were instead granted “categorical exemptions” from the environmental analyses and public transparency actions strictly required by the National Environmental Policy Act. These actions (or lack thereof) in such an ecologically complex environment, especially considering it is the historical site of the US’s third largest oil spill, raises serious questions of compliance with other federal laws including the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and Coastal Zone Management Act.3

Policy Recommendations

Additionally, the EDC report makes several policy recommendations:

  • Place a moratorium on offshore hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and other forms of well stimulation unless and until such technologies are proven safe through a public and transparent comprehensive scientific review
  • Prohibit the use of categorical exclusions to authorize offshore fracking and other forms of well stimulation
  • Formally evaluate offshore fracking and other forms of well stimulation through a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement
  • Initiate consistency reviews with the California Coastal Commission for all exploration plans, development plans, drilling or modification proposals involving fracking
  • Ensure that all fracking proposals comply with the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act
  • Review and revise the Clean Water Act permit governing offshore oil platforms to directly address chemicals in frac flowback and other wastewater, either establishing effluent limitations for those chemicals or denying discharge altogether

References

  1. Environmental Defense Center. 2013. Dirty Water: Fracking offshore California. Retrieved 10/16/13.
  2. Daniel Whitten. September 16, 2010. Oil, Gas Royalty-In-Kind Program to End, Salazar Says. Bloomberg. Retrieved 10/15/2013.
  3. Environmental Defense Center. October 16, 2013. EDC Provides Fracking Details. Retrieved 10/16/13.
  4. ALICIA CHANG and JASON DEAREN. October 19, 2013. California Offshore Fracking More Widespread than Anyone Believed. Huffington Post. Retrieved 10/22/13.

2013 American Industrial Hygiene Association Fall Conference

By Kyle Ferrar, CA Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

FracTracker was recently in attendance at the American Industrial Hygiene Association annual conference, held in Miami, FL, September 28-October 1st.  The FracTracker Alliance’s Kyle Ferrar participated in the workshop “Natural GAS EXTRACTION – Rising Energy Demands Mandate a Multi-Perspective Approach.”  The workshop was moderated by Dr. Mark Roberts, and in addition to the FracTracker Alliance, there was a presentation by NIOSH Senior Industrial Hygienist Eric Esswein and the well-versed chemist, engineer, and industry associate/consultant  John Ely.  The workshop was well-attended (sold out).

In case you missed it, FracTracker’s annotated presentation is posted here:  Ferrar_AIHA Presentation_9.29.13.

OH Shale Viewer

OH National Response Center Data on Shale Gas Viewer

By Ted Auch, PhD – Ohio Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), we as US citizens have real-time access to “all oil, chemical, radiological, biological, and etiological discharges into the environment anywhere in the United States and its territories” data via the National Response Center (NRC). The NRC is an:

initial report taking agency…[that] does not participate in the investigation or incident response. The NRC receives initial reporting information only and notifies Federal and State On-Scene Coordinators for response…Verification of data and incident response is the sole responsibility of Federal/State On-Scene Coordinators.[1]

We decided that NRC incident data would make for a useful layer in our Ohio Shale Gas Viewer. As of September 1, 2013 it is included and will be updated bi-monthly. Thanks go out to SkyTruth’s generous researchers Paul Woods and Craig Winters. We have converted an inventory of Ohio reports provided by SkyTruth into a GIS layer on our map, consisting of 1,191 events, including date and type, back to January 2012.


The layer is not visible until you zoom in twice from the default view on the map above. It appears as the silhouette of a person lying on the ground with Skull and crossbones next to it. View fullscreen>

Currently, the layer includes 28 hydraulic fracturing-related events, 61 “Big [Oil and Chemical] Spills,” and 1,102 additional events – most of which are concentrated in the urban centers of Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, and Toledo OH.

From a Utica Shale corporation perspective, 21 of the 28 reports are attributed to Chesapeake Operating, Inc. (aka, Chesapeake Energy Corporation (CHK)) or 75% of the hydraulic fracturing (HF) events, while CHK only accounts for 48% of all HF drilled, drilling, or producing wells in OH. Anadarko, Devon, Halcon, and Rex are responsible for the remaining 7 reports. They collectively account for 2.7% of the state’s current inventory of unconventional drilled, drilling, or producing wells.


[1] To contact the NRC for legal purposes, email efoia@uscg.mil. The NRC makes this data available back to 1982, but we decided to focus on the period beginning with the first year of Utica permits here in Ohio to the present (i.e., 2010-2013).

Local Actions and Local Regulations in California

By Kyle Ferrar, CA Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

The potential for large scale oil development in the Monterey and other shale basins has raised concern in California communities over the use of hydraulic fracturing and other unconventional well stimulation techniques, such as acidizing.  The fact that DOGGR was not tracking the use of these techniques, much less regulating them, has led to a variety of actions being taken by local governments.  Several groups including county directors, city councils, and neighborhood and community councils have passed resolutions supporting state-wide bans on hydraulic fracturing and other controversial stimulation techniques.  As can be seen in the following map, several of them are located within the greater LA metropolitan area, which is currently considering a local moratorium.

This map shows the local civic groups in the LA metropolitan area that have passed resolutions supporting statewide bans/moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing and other controversial stimulation activities.

This map shows the local civic groups [green check marks] in the LA metropolitan area that have passed resolutions supporting statewide bans/moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing and other controversial stimulation activities. Click on the map to view larger image.

Two local jurisdictions, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the County of Santa Barbara, have enacted their own measures to regulate oil and gas development.  Both require notification of drilling techniques, and Santa Barbara County requires operators to file for a unique permit when using hydraulic fracturing. Data from the county of Santa Barbara’s permitting program was not readily accessible – although it may well be that they have not issued any permits.  The South Coast Air Quality Management District is charged with managing the air quality for Orange County, the city of Los Angeles and the surrounding urban centers of Riverside and San Bernardino.  In the spring of 2013, the SCAQMD passed Southern California rule 1148.2.  The rule requires oil operators to submit specific reports of well activity documenting drilling, chemical use and the well stimulation techniques employed, directly to the SCAQMD.  Reportable methods include acidification, gravel packing, and hydraulic fracturing.  The rule was implemented June 2, 2013. The database of well-site data is readily accessible via the web.  Web users can obtain individual well summaries of drilling activity and chemical-use reports, or download the full data sets.  The site is user-friendly and the data is easily accessible. Unfortunately, the currently available data set is missing some of the most important information, specifically well API numbers – the unique identifier for all wells drilled in the United States.  This data gap makes it impossible to compare or cross-reference this data set with others.

AQMD Wellsites

FracTracker has mapped the well-sites reported on the SCAQMD in the new map on the California page titled California Local Actions, Monitoring and Regulations.  This map outlines the boundaries of SCAQMD and other sub-state regulatory agencies that have elected to manage the drilling activity.  Details on the programs are provided in the map layers.  The data published by the SCAQMD has been included in the map.  In the map above, if you compare the SCAQMD data layer to the Hydraulically Fractured dataset derived by combining DOGGR and FracFocus data, you can see that the two data sets do not look to include the same well sites.  Unfortunately, it cannot be known whether this is merely an issue of slightly dissimilar coordinates or legitimate data gaps; the SCAQMD data set lacks the API identifier for the majority of well sites reported.  Because the regulatory landscape tends to follow the political leadership that reflects the interests of the constituency, legislative districts have also been included as a viewable map layer.   Be active in your democracy.

Keeping Track of Hydraulic Fracturing in California

By Kyle Ferrar, CA Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

Environmental regulations in California are considered conservative by most state standards. To name a few practices, the state has developed an air quality review board that conducts independent toxicological assessments on a level competitive with the U.S. EPA, and the state instituted the U.S.’s first green house gas cap and trade program. But most recently the California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) has been criticized in the media for its lack of monitoring of hydraulic fracturing activity. DOGGR has been responsive to criticism and preemptive of legislative action and has begun a full review of all well-sites in California to identify which wells have been hydraulically fractured and plan to monitor future hydraulic fracturing. Additionally they have maintained historical records of all wells drilled, plugged, and abandoned in the state in web-accessible databases, which include data for oil and gas, geothermal, and injection wells, as well as other types of support wells such as pressure maintenance, steam flood etc.. The data is also viewable in map format on the DOGGR’s online mapping system (DOMS).

To understand what is missing from the DOGGR dataset, it was compared to the dataset extracted from FracFocus.org by SkyTruth. The map “Hydraulic Fracturing in California” compares these two datasets, which can be viewed individually or together as one dataset with duplicates removed. It is interesting to note the SkyTruth dataset categorizes 237 wells as hydraulically fractured that DOGGR does not, and identifies three wells (API #’s 11112215, 23727206, and 10120788) not identified in the DOGGR database. For the some of these 237 wells, DOGGR identifies them as new, which means they were recently drilled and hydraulically fractured and DOGGR will be updating their database. Many are identified as active oil and gas wells., while the rest are identified as well types other than oil and gas. Also the SkyTruth dataset from FracFocus data contains additional information about each well-site, which DOGGR does not provide. This includes volumes of water used for hydraulic fracturing and the fracture date, both of which are vital pieces of monitoring information.

The California State Legislature is currently reviewing California Senate Bill 4 (CA SB 4) written by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), which would put in place a regulatory structure for permitting and monitoring hydraulic fracturing and other activity.  A caveat for acidification is also included that would require companies to obtain a specific permit from the state before acidizing a well.  The bill has received criticism from both industry and environmentalists.  While it does not call for a moratorium or regulate what chemicals are used, it is the first legislation that requires a full disclosure of all hydraulic fracturing fluid additives, including those considered proprietary.  This is the last of at least seven bills on the issue, the majority of which have been turned down by lawmakers. The most conservative bills (Assemblywoman Mitchell; D-Culver City) proposed moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing in the state. Earlier this year lawmakers approved a bill (Sen. Pavley; D-Agoura Hills) that would direct the state to complete and independent scientific risk assessment of hydraulic fracturing. The bill directs permitters to deny permits if the study is not finished by January 1, 2015, and also requires public notice before drilling as well as disclosure of chemicals (besides those considered proprietary). In May, a bill (Sen. Wold; D-Davis) was passed requiring drillers to file a $100,000 indemnity bond for each well, with an optional blanket indemnity bond of $5 million for operators with over 20 wells. Another bill (Jackson; D-Santa Barbara) that would require monitoring of both transportation and disposal of wastewater was tabled until next year.

Although hydraulic fracturing has been conducted in California for over a decade, it was not monitored or regulated, and the majority of Californians were not aware of it. Industry groups have portrayed the lack of attention as a testament to its environmental neutrality, but Californians living smack dab in the middle of the drilling tend to tell a different story. The issue is now receiving attention because hydraulic fracturing is such a hotbed topic of contention, along with the potential future of the billions of barrels of oil in the Monterey Shale. The unconventional extraction technology necessary to recover the oil from these deep shale formations is state of the art, which means it is not tried and true. The methods include a combination of high tech approaches, such as horizontal drilling, high volume hydraulic fracturing, and acidification to name a few. Realize: if this technology existed for the last 60 years, the Monterey Shale would already have been developed long ago, along with the rest of the U.S. deep shale formations.

FracTracker Alliance’s *NEW* California Shale Viewer

By Kyle Ferrar, CA Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

The FracTracker Alliance has just recently opened a new office based out of Berkeley, California. As a first step in addressing the unique issues of oil and gas extraction in the Golden State, FracTracker has queried the data that is published by the state’s regulatory agencies, and has translated those datasets into various maps that highlight specific issues. As a first step in this process, FracTracker transcribed the well-site data that is publicly available from the California Department of Conservation’s (DOC) Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR).

This first phase of analysis is presented in FracMapper on the California page, here. FracTracker has translated the entire DOGGR database into a map layer that can be viewed on the California Shale Viewer map, here. The California Shale Viewer will be continuously updated to map the expanding oil and gas development as it occurs. Featured map layers on the California Shale Viewer focus on hydraulic fracturing in the state of California. The hydraulic fracturing well-site data comes from two sources. First, the layer “CA Hydraulically Fractured Wells Identified by DOGGR” portrays the maps identified by regulatory agency as having been hydraulically fractured. The DOGGR is aware that their dataset is not complete in terms of identifying all wells that have been hydraulically fractured. The second source of data is from our friends at SkyTruth, and provided in the layer “CA Hydraulically Fractured Wells Identified by SkyTruth”. Using a crowd-source platform, SkyTruth has generated a dataset based on the information reported to FracFocus.org. FracFocus.org refuses to provide aggregated datasets of their well-site data. These hydraulically fractured well-sites can be viewed as a individual datasets in the California Shale Viewer, or as a combined layer in the map “California Hydraulically Fractured and Conventional Oil and Gas Wells” map, where you are also able to view the dataset of wells FracFocus identifies as hydraulically fractured, but DOGGR does not.

More information concerning the many different types of wells drilled in California and the status of these wells (whether they are planned, active, idle or plugged) can be found in the “Well Type” map and “Well Status” map, also available on the FracTracker California page.

Unconventional Shale Drilling: What we know, What we don’t know, What we need to know to move forward

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By Ted Auch, PhD – Ohio Outreach Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

A Conference Retrospective

Communities, NGOs large and small, local governments, and even next door neighbors and/or families are dealing with long-term potential and realized environmental, economic, health*, and social equity damage from the activities of the gas industry in Ohio and beyond. These impacts were vetted at a conference (PDF) recently convened in Warren, OH by FreshWater Accountability Project Ohio, The FracTracker Alliance, and the Buckeye Forest Council. The title of the conference was “Unconventional Shale Drilling: What we know, What we don’t know, What we need to know to move forward.” The premise was to bring together a forum of diverse subject matter experts from academia, industry, government and private organizations to discuss and prioritize – using a knowledge-based approach – the various major issues relating to energy extraction that are facing local, state and national agencies and private citizens.

Conference attendees heard from a variety of researchers and community activist about their successes and failures, data needs, and expectations for how to leverage the conference gathering into a relatively cohesive and largely ego free movement. One highlight was a presentation and informal discussion with Deborah Rogers, former Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney investment banker, Dallas Federal Reserve Advisory Council member, current U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI) advisory committee member, and the woman behind the Energy Policy Forum. Ms. Rogers’ keynote presentation “Shale and Wall Street: Was the Decline in Natural Gas Prices Orchestrated?” focused on the regulatory and high finance parallels between the early aughts real-estate bubble and the current US shale bubble’s red queen predicament (what’s this?) forcing industry to acquire shale assets and repurchase shares in an illusory attempt to inflate their balance sheets and placate Wall Street expectations (while simultaneously overestimating reserves by 400-500% and experiencing 6.5% recovery efficiencies). Ms. Rogers pointed to the fact that the US is home to 181,000 oil and gas jobs Vs. 183,200 renewable energy jobs, however, they account for 45% and 15% of total energy generation capacity, respectively, with the latter “providing significantly more jobs per kilowatt capacity than oil and gas.”

Ms. Rogers was followed by University of Pittsburgh professor Dr. Bernard Goldstein, Biological Mimetics, Inc. President and CEO, Peter Nara, with public health and environmental concerns presentations, respectively. Julie Weatherington-Rice, an OSU adjunct faculty geologist, delivered an Ohio- focused talk on the legal and public policy implications of drilling in public water well fields. Dr. Weatherington-Rice gave an encore performance the following day focusing on shale gas waste, public water supplies, Ohio EPA’s September 2012 advisory regarding disposal of fracking waste in the Great Lake’s waste landfill facilities, and the dangers associated with technologically enhanced radioactive material (TENORM). Dr. Rice was followed by presentations on sustainable communities via “Local Self-Government and the Rights of Nature” by Tish O’Dell of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) and Matt Nisenoff exploring the non-binary nature of Ohio advocacy. Mr. Nisenoff addressed the need for persistent organizing and “entering the political ring as candidates rather than voters.”

One of the most novel components of the conference was the presentation by Rumi Shammin, an environmental studies professor at Oberlin College who brought to the floor the concepts of ecosystem services and ecological economics or the monetization of ecological pattern and process [1]. These two lines of research are new to the hydraulic fracturing conversation and potentially integral to policy formulation, community outreach and academic-citizen scientist collaboration in Ohio.

Bowling Green State University professor Andrew Kear offered the final presentation titled “Unconventional Politics of Unconventional Gas: Environmental Reframing and Policy Change.” The presentation highlighted his PhD dissertation work focusing on unlikely bedfellows in the mountain west shale plays and the types of lessons he thought applied to Ohio’s shale fracturing discussion.

The conference closed with attendees coming together to identify the explicit knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns in Ohio relative to economic, environmental, social integrity, and health issues. The results of these break-out groups and discussion will be made available to the public in the next two weeks.

Next steps include crafting two to three white papers, writing a peer review publication, implementing effective collaboration strategies, planning future conferences, and developing policy recommendations. The ultimate goals are to promote fact-based transparency, best in class technologies, and create healthy and sustainable energy resources.

In the face of industry and regulatory inertia that continues to push back against transparency and local control, the conference underscored the need for more education, data, and far more research – all issues of special interest to the FracTracker Alliance – while bridging rifts and fortifying existing bonds.

Contact Information

For more information and notices as to resulting products, please contact:

  1. Leatra Harper, FreshWater Accountability Project Ohio,
  2. Ted Auch, PhD, The FracTracker Alliance, Ohio Program Coordinator
  3. Peter Nara, PhD, Biological Mimetics, Inc.
  4. Julie Weatherington-Rice, PhD, Adjunct Faculty The Ohio State University and Bennett & Williams
  5. Nathan Johnson, Buckeye Forest Council

* Keynote speaker Deborah Rogers cited health impact costs in the Barnett, Fayetteville, and Marcellus Shale of $73, 33.5, and 32 million per annum.


[1] Arrow et al., 1995; Costanza et al., 1997; Costanza et al., 2000; Costanza, Wainger, Folke, & Mäler, 1993; Daily et al., 1997; Krantzberg & Boer, 2006; Ruhl, 2006