By Bobby Magill
27 March 2014
Researchers at FracTracker, an independent oil and gas research group that started as a mapping project at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, analyzed oil and gas well location data for all 50 states and created a map showing where most of those wells are, including wells that have been fracked and those that haven’t.
Fracking is the energy industry’s practice of injecting water, sand and chemicals deep underground at high pressure to extract crude oil and natural gas from dense rock formations. It’s controversial because of its not-fully-determined affect on public health and the environment. The fossil fuel produced by way of fracking contributes to climate change through the burning of crude oil and possible leaks of methane and other gas emissions from oil and natural gas production equipment and distribution pipelines.
Using data available from individual state governments, FracTracker researchers counted more than 1.1 million active oil and gas wells across 36 states. The group published most of the raw well location data on its website and mapped them. The result is an interactive map showing generally where you’ll find oil and gas wells, fracked or not, and the oil and gas basins where wells could be drilled in the future.
The glaring exception to this is the state where you’ll find the highest concentration of oil and gas wells in the country — Texas.
FracTracker researcher Matt Kelso said Texas, which has more than 300,000 active oil and gas wells, is the only state that charges a fee for researchers to obtain location data for its wells, and FracTracker chose not to publish the raw data or depict it on the map because Texas does not allow the data to be redistributed.
Aside from oil-rich Texas being a blank spot on the map, the oil and gas well location data the group compiled for the rest of the country comes with some interesting numbers and figures. To begin with, there is no confirmation that any of the wells included in FracTracker’s data have actually been fracked, except in Indiana, for which the group was able to obtain well fracking data.
However, nearly all directionally or horizontally drilled wells have been fracked, Kelso said.
Also of note: New York State, where a moratorium currently bans fracking until the state can decide how to regulate it, has more than 15,000 active oil and gas wells, mostly in western New York at the northern edge of the natural gas-rich Marcellus shale, FracTracker data show. [more]