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Drilling rigs are moving at a furious pace – a look at The Boom in maps

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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The impact of domestic oil and natural gas production has seen a significant uptick in the past several years. The rush of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in “tight” shale plays around the country is largely responsible for a resurgence of U.S. oil and natural gas production.

But how busy is The Boom?

A useful way to understand just how much the domestic oil and gas boom has grown is to look at maps of drilling locations throughout the country. The following maps come courtesy of Kevin Thuot at energy analytics firm Drilling Info. In the first one, we see the major plays thoughout the United States, including the Bakken in North Dakota, Marcellus in Pennsylvania, the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin plays in Texas, and the Woodford in Oklahoma.

Already we see that there are a couple thousand drilling rigs located throughout the country (Texas alone is home to nearly half the active rigs in the United States). But that’s not the whole story. As Thuot writes, there are two important trends to keep in mind when discussing the modern boom: First, modern tight oil and gas development continually requires a large number of new wells to maintain and increase total production volumes. Separately, rig cycle times have been on the decrease, so that the number of active rigs has actually gone down over the last few years, even as production has increased.”

In other words, operators are putting new holes in the ground faster than ever. Once a well is drilled, the rig is moved to a new location. It’s in this information that we can see just how active the industry is. When this movement is plotted on a map the patterns become apparent. The next two maps show drilling rig movement for the first seven weeks of 2014, with the yellow end of the line depicting the starting location and the red end the destination:

You’ll notice that a lot of movement is within the same play. This makes intuitive sense because it is more efficient to move down the road to a new drill site rather than pack up and transport equipment a long distance. But you’ll notice that there is regional movement, notably from Oklahoma’s Granite Wash and Woodford plays into the Permian Basin:

This is the first type of analysis I have seen that shows the pace and movement of drilling rigs and I’m looking forward to seeing more of this type of analysis. Check out Kevin’s post at the Drilling Info blog.

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? david.m.wogan@gmail.com Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. tuned 10:57 am 03/5/2014

    I drive my 42 mpg car once or twice a month.
    If the whole industry dried up and blew away I would do fine (and the world would be healthier).

    Link to this
  2. 2. pokerplyer 1:25 pm 03/5/2014

    How is this other than wonderful news for the USA? If we do not develop additional domestic capability it only means that we will be shipping our financial strength to other countries.

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  3. 3. rufusgwarren 4:35 pm 03/5/2014

    If there is a country left after oil!

    Link to this
  4. 4. David Cummings 6:44 am 03/6/2014

    Newt Gingrich, and other Republicans, pushed the idea of “Drill, Baby, Drill” in the last election. The Democrats held on to the White House and yet we have indeed proceeded with a Drill, Baby, Drill agenda. I realize that the President doesn’t single-handedly set the energy agenda but it’s still interesting that Obama’s America is fulfilling Newt’s dream.

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  5. 5. jerryd 10:00 am 03/6/2014

    First everyone should know it takes hundreds to thousands of tight wells to equal one normal crude, NG well. That is why it’s never been tapped before. New tech just makes it marginally better.

    Thus why the drilling rigs are moving so much as every tight well has to be replaced every 4-7 yrs average just to maintain present production levels. Do they math and tight oil/NG peaks about 2022 as they can no longer replace the well fast enough.

    Thus these wells have very low ROI, marginal in fact so any increase in cost drives more of them out of viability.

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  6. 6. locey591 7:02 pm 04/18/2014

    Ya you will be saying that once your damn car wont go no more lol! I’m getting rich 6 figures a year off the oil industry for driving trucks to keep your little piece of shit smart car running! Just saying, I have a degree and a commercial CDL but let me guess you must be a democrat to come on here bitching about how you hate oil!

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