Marcellus site mines gas data
BY LAURA LEGERE
Marcellus Shale exploration produces gas, money, controversy and happy statisticians.
The thicket of data tracking Pennsylvania’s drilling surge is compiled and stored by different federal and state agencies in various places online and on paper. A Susquehanna County-based website aims to merge it and present it in a meaningful way.
Carl Hagstrom founded Marcellusgas.org in mid-2010 after conducting his own frustrating search for relevant information about the gas extraction boom around his Jessup Twp. home and business. Pieces of data were available across “two dozen” places online, he found, but it was “really, really tedious” to find and required a fairly high level of computer skills “and patience.”
“If I could find the information in the manner that I wanted to see it, then I thought there would probably be other people that felt the same way,” he said.
He had experience with Web development from his partnership in Woodweb, an industrial woodworking site that has been running for more than a decade.
Marcellusgas.org is a subscription site that costs $20 annually for full access. A free guest membership offers a limited number of views.
The data are primarily arranged by well site. Pick the Redmond well pad in Meshoppen, for example, and you will find that seven wells have been permitted at the site, two of which produced about $11.4 million worth of gas through June 2012 – the most recent state reporting period. State Department of Environmental Protection officials have inspected the site 23 times and found two violations; the inspectors’ notes are incorporated into the report.
Select one of the producing wells on the pad, the Redmond 5H, and you will find the names of the chemical additives used to frack it, the process of injecting high-pressure fluid into the rock to release the gas.
A digital copy of the map filed with the state showing where the well was drilled and where it bores horizontally underground is available for $10. The map, plus pages of permit information on file at the regional DEP office, is available for $25.
The copied documents come from in-person visits Mr. Hagstrom or one of the other five people who work on the site make to a regional DEP office in Williamsport. In early December, the site had nearly 10,000 maps available for download.
Marcellusgas.org graphs, maps and packages searchable databases in dozens of ways by county, company, township and state. In all, the site pulls together about 2 million separate pieces of data and adds more each week, Mr. Hagstrom said.
The team also sorts out big-picture interpretations of the data. In regular email updates, Mr. Hagstrom describes how “our statistics team” or “our development team” or “our programmers” have mined the information to estimate how long it will take for the state to issue permits for all of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale acreage at the 2011 rate (until 2088) or the average lifetime royalty that will be paid on one acre until all available gas has been extracted from it ($25,000).
“A real challenge, and what I think we’re doing fairly well is presenting that deluge of data in a way that makes sense,” he said.
The site is designed for people who own property in Pennsylvania or are interested in researching gas-related information about a parcel, like Realtors or investors. It is ad-free and strives for objectivity.
Hagstrom said he has found that certain information is coveted.
“For every two people that are interested in the non-monetary aspects of the information,” he said, “there are eight that are interested in the money.”