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The Marcellus Shale Play ... Hot Prospecting, Cool Geospatial Lease Data

Thursday, January 19th 2012
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Summary:

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection reports that the Marcellus Shale underlying much of Pennsylvania and portions of New York and West Virginia is believed to hold trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. This formation has long been considered prohibitively expensive to access but recent advances in drilling technology and rising natural gas prices have attracted new interest in this previously untapped formation. Updated lease maps of the area are critical to tapping this vast energy resource. Editor in Chief Joe Francica spoke to Brock McCarty of Apollo Mapping to get some specifics on the maps Apollo Mapping is providing to companies prospecting in the area.

Directions Magazine (DM): What's the primary source of your lease data?

Brock McCarty (BM): As with most oil and gas research, we source the majority of our Marcellus-Utica lease data during repeat visits to the local county courthouse by a team of experienced landmen and landwomen. Jim Bourbeau Land Service is our local partner, and with 30 years of experience in the Appalachian region, there is no better team to complete this in-person research accurately. During our courthouse visits, we gather paper records including lease declarations, ratifications and assignments, as well as unit declarations, which are transcribed and then merged into our spatial database. In limited cases, we are able to supplement courthouse visits with lease records that can be found online.

Sample lease map

DM: Are you able to provide production rates per lease or just the lease data?

BM: Our lease hold layer is meant to provide companies with the maps and attributes they need to make informed and rapid energy development decisions. The key attributes we focus on are lessee, lessor, bonus and royalty payments, lease expiration date, top leasing and formation specific leases. Production rates are typically found in well spot layers that are produced by the state and/or county government. We can easily provide this production data with our lease hold layer upon request.

DM: How do you sell the data - by county or other geographic boundary?

BM: Data can be sold by the geography that makes the most sense for a given project. Most of our clients prefer to purchase lease hold data by the county but we can easily support delivering it by the township, according to a pipeline route, or by any custom polygon.

DM: Will the data be available online as a Web service?

BM: Currently we are providing the Marcellus-Utica lease data in Esri shapefile, geodatabase, KMZ/KML, spreadsheet and PDF format. Spatially enabled formats such as shapefiles and file geodatabases are preferred as they support filtering and custom mapping which is crucial to making informed energy development decisions.

We are also working on an online service which will allow users to perform “GIS-lite” functions such as changing symbology, running predefined filters and toggling layers on and off. The online lease hold service is intended for those in the local community without the mapping technology which energy, engineering and other large organizations have in-house for spatial analysis. We expect this online service to be ready in the next two months.

DM: Are there any restrictions on the data (license, etc.)?

BM: Our goal is to make this leasing product as flexible and in-line with the expectations of our end users as possible. As such, we have a flexible license that allows end users to utilize the data for any internal application. We also allow end users to share this data with contractors assisting them with specific projects. Our only restriction is that end users cannot resell the Marcellus-Utica lease data.

DM: What else should we know about your data?

BM: Our Marcellus-Utica lease data separates itself from the competition by its geographic coverage as well as its update schedule. Of our 130 counties, we update nearly one-third once per week and the remaining counties are updated once every other week. Further, we have hand-digitized parcels from paper tax maps in three counties at the heart of the Utica Shale play – i.e. Guernsey, Morgan and Noble, Ohio – so that we have the leasing data you need to make truly informed business decisions.


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