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CPBJ Extra Blog

Single oil, natural-gas report way better than scattered data

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What's the complaint you usually have with government agencies?

OK, that list is too huge to be contained in a blog post. Let me jump to one of my top complaints as a journalist: The agency’s information is scattered all over the place.

If you visit any of the commonwealth’s sites, you’ll discover there is a wealth of information on a huge number of topics. There’s a site run by the governor’s office that will tell you, exactly, what municipality a certain address is in. That comes in handy when you’re trying to figure out if something is in York or in Springettsbury Township.

Good luck trying to find that site on your own. Here’s the link, to help you out.

Well, the state Department of Environmental Protection realized that, while it keeps a lot of great information on Marcellus and Utica Shale drilling, as well as oil production in the state, it is scattered about its site.

The agency, for the first time, has assembled a single report — the 2013 Oil and Gas Annual Report — to put in one place all the statistics it has on oil and natural-gas production in the state, at least for 2013.

“This report illustrates the great progress we have made in protecting our environment through increased inspections, tougher regulations and improved oversight of this industry,” said DEP Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo in announcing the report last week.

Yeah, yeah. Whatever.

It makes my life easier when I’m searching for how many natural-gas (or unconventional) wells were permitted in Pennsylvania in 2013. The answer: 2,965. How many wells were actually drilled in 2013? The answer: 1,207.

Why the discrepancy between the number permitted and the number drilled? The report explains:

“(A) well drilling permit is valid for a full year and can be extended if requested and approved by DEP. An operator may commence drilling at any time during the period that the permit is in effect. Depending on individual business practices, oil and gas operators may secure a well-drilling permit far in advance of commencing actual drilling operations. In some cases, an operator may also determine that a site is not suitable for drilling. Due to these reasons, it is common that the number of permits issued by DEP exceeds the number of wells drilled in any given year.”

The document has a lot of other good detail, describing, for example, where the Marcellus and Utica Shale “plays” are. It also describes what gas industry folks mean by “play.”

The reading is a little dense, but if you wanted to understand the picture of gas and oil drilling in the state, the report does a fairly good job.

And it’s all in one place.

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