Tech Talk - The Railroad Commission of Texas

When I have written about oil and natural gas production from individual wells in previous posts, I have referred to the website of the Texas Railroad Commission as the source of my information. You might wonder why they are in charge. Well, it all began back in the days after Texas first became a State, and the government wanted to encourage folk to move out into the state.

Historically railroads had been built to connect existing towns and cities, but there weren’t any going West. And so, to encourage railroads to grow out west, they were allowed land grants and a number of tax and other grants and incentives that would encourage rail and the growth of towns along the track, as a result. Since this provided a sensible monopoly on transportation, the Texas legislature, as far back as 1853, had enacted comprehensive laws regarding the railroads. The problem was that these laws were not enforced, and for a number of years the railroads could charge as much as the traffic would bear.

This led to many protests, particularly from farmers, and after many promises, the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) was created in 1891:

An Act to establish a Railroad Commission for the State of Texas whereby discrimination and extortion in railroad charges may be prevented, and reasonable freight and passenger tariffs may be established; to prescribe and authorize the making of rules and regulations to govern the Commission and the railroads, and afford railroad companies and other parties adequate remedies; to prescribe penalties for the violation of this act and provide means and rules for its enforcement.

That created the RRC, and after some struggles, and a trip to the Supreme Court the RRC succeeded in establishing that it had the power, which it enforced, to cut shipping rates. But how did that allow it to get into controlling the “oil bidniss”?

The simple part of the answer is that when the Commission was set up, its responsibilities included:

Determination of passenger fares, freight rates, and charges for all classes of common carriers in Texas.

As the boom in oil production began in Texas, production rates were initially high and, as I noted last time, many wells were being drilled in close proximity, with incentives (including the “right of capture”) that drove owners to produce their wells as fast as possible. And in 1931 an average of 8 wells a day was being drilled in Texas.

The result was a glut of oil on the market with prices falling from $1.10 before the Daisy Bradford #3 well was drilled (By H.L. Hunt) to $0.15 and even $0.02 a barrel on the spot market (The Big Rich by Bryan Burrough). Someone had to do something, and the choice pointed to “proration”. In this each well could be assigned a certain production or number of days in the month that it could produce, based on the number of wells and the amount of oil that the market was considered able to bear. But who should set the quantities.

Oil, once it is out of the ground, has to be transported and the early alternatives were either by rail car or pipeline. The rail roads were already under the RRC and in 1917 the Texas Legislature designated pipelines as “common carriers” which also brought them under the RRC. By 1919 this oversight was extended to include jurisdiction over Oil and Gas. And a new Division was born. (The agency continued to have some role in railroads until 2005, when that was completely phased out).

The RRC had unsuccessfully tried to control production earlier, and in 1931 it tried again, setting a proration order for the East Texas field of 160,000 bd at a time when it was producing half-a-million barrels. That didn’t go anywere either, but the impact on the economies of the states was becoming too great. It was the larger companies that largely argued for proration

Jacob Wolters of the Texas Company (Texaco), warned of the ruin of thousands of wells, as well as “the bankruptcy of producers, the loss of millions of dollars in revenues of the State, and the consequent increase of taxes on other sources in order that the public schools, higher institutions of learning, eleemosynary institutions and the departments of the State may continue to function.”

Up in Oklahoma City the city council had passed a law that restricted oil wells to one per city block, and their attempt to close wells was so challenged that the Okahoma Governor, William Murray, declared martial law and closed the wells, initially for a day. This in turn led him to place the 3,106 oil producing wells in Oklahoma under martial law from August 4, 1931 until April 1933.

Down in Texas, as Bryan Burroughs notes, H.L. Hunt and other large producers urged the Texas Governor to follow suit.

On August 16, declaring East Texas oilmen to be in open “rebellion” agaist the site, he declared martial law and sent in the National Guard to shut down the oil field.

It was re-opened three weeks later, but with individual wells limited to only producing 225 bd. As these controls began to limit production in the face of growing demand so the price stabilized and slowly began to creep up. By 1933 it had reached $0.99 before falling again. A “hot oil” market was making it too lucrative to flout the law and smuggle oil, and this led to the “hot oil wars.”

To enforce the proration limits the Texas Legislature began to pass tighter and tighter regulations giving the Railroad Commission greater powers. Further the governments of Kansas, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma got together to establish a common approach, out of which came the Interstate Oil Compact in 1936. At the same time the Federal Government passed the Connally Hot Oil Act giving it the power to enforce the directives of the Texas RRC in interstate commerce. The regulation of output was considered as one of the steps in increasing the estimated reserves of the East Texas field from one to five billion barrels.

From 1936 until 1972, with the exception of the War years, the RRC controlled production though proration. In this way, when the Iranian revolution in 1951 nationalized the oilfields there, Texas was able to increase production and fill the gap. It was able to do the same during the Suez Canal crisis in 1958. And then, as foreign oil became a glut on the market, the RRC cut production from the wells, down to only seven days a month in 1962. But production over time was depleting the fields. When the Arab-Israeli war broke out in 1967 production could not be brought high enough to meet demand, and in 1972 the RRC set the proration at 100%. The result was only a limited gain in volume, for American oil production had peaked. And Texas had taught the rest of the world’s oil producers a lesson, for OPEC was aborning.

The commission still monitors well production, and is a site where this information is available. The site notes that both oil and gas production and oil well completions this year are running behind last years numbers.

"An Act to establish a Railroad Commission for the State of Texas whereby discrimination and extortion in railroad charges may be prevented"

Interesting that was recognized as extortion then would probably be heralded as "the miracle of the free market" today. Times change.

dohboi - And as always where you sit in this little theatrical production determines the definitions. As they say: One man's terrorist is another man's freedome fighter. Were the rail roads extortionists by demanding rates that justified their investments? Did the Texas RRC extort the consumers of the world by restricting oil production and forcing the price of oil above the free market? Is the farmer who sells his wheat crop at twice last years price (because of low yield due to bad weather) extorting the hungry comsumers? The US consumers have been able to out bid most of the global communities for decades. As such our companies could produce export products (like wheat) and require the world to pay the prices we demand or they starve? Isn't that extortion based upon our ability to acquire a disproportionate share of the earth's energy? Or are we the hero of a hungy planet by becoming it's most efficent bread basket?

Once again, thanks to each and all for this site. What a refreshing change from the usual media fare.

Rockman -- do you have a personal answer for those rhetorical questions? Can there ever be an answer?

When I was younger, I had a lot of faith in the "government", and I thought such questions of allocation were a sensible use of government power.

One does become cynical, though, as one watches the transformation of, for example, the Texas Railroad Commission, or any similar governmental authority over time. Power has a way of accumulating and concentrating -- so long as there is energy to drive it, for even the mighty have to recognize the existence of entropy.

On the other hand, someone has to direct the "theatrical production" -- for whatever reason, people are not able to leave each other alone. And, I guess that the "director" is whoever is the cleverest with the words and definitions -- people seem to love their guns, but rhetoric is what moves people, and armaments only stand in service of rhetoric.

The Oil Drum tells a good story, and the story gets better with time and repetition. In my opinion, at least, it is not so much the geological realities that are causing people to change their beliefs and even their behavior -- though the reality will bite sooner or later regardless of cornucopian notions -- as much as it is a skillful presentation of an alternative story to the fantasy of infinite growth.

People are capable of believing, acting upon, and even dying for patently absurd ideas.

Peak Oil is almost certainly "true" - but that doesn't by itself guarantee acceptance of the idea. It has to be sold, and TOD is consistently doing a good job of selling it.

The next question is, when Peak Oil becomes the mainstream belief, how will the politics change? Will people become less greedy and violent when they realize they inhabit a finite world? Can people share scarcity any better than they share abundance?

I have to say, out here on the western edge of the world (Manzanita, Oregon, on the coast) these considerations all seem pretty scholastic.

LNG - I see you have your own set of rhetorical questions. But perhaps they are not so much questions we can’t answer but don’t want to. Especially when the answers are ugly and reveal too much about our inner selves. Perhaps that’s the basis of the difference between many doomers and cornucopians. It’s not so much a difference in the future they foresee but the future they hope to see…need to see to satisfy our personal beliefs.

There are winners and losers. Sometimes the situations can be modified to prevent extremes. But sometimes not. Consider the typical Hollywood fare when some series of events requires TPTB to make a decision: who lives…who dies? Everyone understands the logic behind the point man: better to lose one man than the entire squad. Can’t deny the choice. But how do you pick that man? Rotate through the squad? Use it as a punishment? Put the least useful/most expendable man out front? These are not rhetorical questions of you’re the one who has to choose who goes out front.

Maybe that’s the greatest problem society faces in dealing with our problems: no one wants to be responsible for that decision…no one wants to be the squad leader. But making the choice isn’t optional…isn’t rhetorical. If you don’t make the choice than you’ve put more at risk. In that sense leadership might not be looked upon not as a privilege or perk but a curse. Not a great surprise we see a lot more folks who want to hold leadership positions then folks who want to truly lead. IOW the primary goal is to be the leader...but not lead. And that reminds me of a scene from "Good Morning, VietNam". The snotty LT states why he became an folks would have to salute him. Real leaders don't need the trappings. They know whose respect they've earned. They know they'll never get spit in their canteen or a "dirty handshake".

Much appreciated info.
Concerning the situation now,besides just oil:
"While not every dire prediction has come true, amid swimming pools and thirsty crops, the hard truth remains that the American West cannot maintain its spendthrift ways of using fresh water."

I wonder when the first water-pipe from Canada to western USA will be built. Who needs oil if you don't have water.

You mean something like this;

You can read all about it here.

A grand plan, conceived back in the 60's, by the Americans of course. There are a couple of variations, but only in the details. The amount of water to be transferred was planned to be 2850 cubic metres/second, or 60 million acre feet/yr, or equivalent to about five times the annual flow of the Colorado River, or 1.2 x the Rhine river in Europe.

You can tell the people who came up with this were dreamers because they showed the water going into Mexico!

Canada seems to be hysterical about a piping a renewable resource like water south, but are happy to pipe non renewables like oil and gas! If the price is right, it may yet be done. It is interesting to speculate on what would happen if, once water exports started, Canada were to stop them...

Mississippi to Texas canal seems appropriate at the moment.


It is interesting to speculate on what would happen if, once water exports started, Canada were to stop them...

well the 'civilized' US answer would be something akin to how the it managed to get the Panama canal started, other answers would probably require rebuilding the pipes after the dust settled.

The US forced Canada to agree to US water rights laws which basically state: once you turn the pipe on, you can never turn it off. So Canada passed legislation banning the export of water to the US.

The only water treaty with Canada that's continuing to work is the Great Lakes Compact, and that bans export of water outside of the watershed.

I wonder when the first water-pipe from Canada to western USA will be built.

Never. The Canadian Prairies need the water, and they can afford to outbid the adjacent US states for it. Compare the per-capita incomes of Alberta and Montana if you want to see the realities of it.

Per Capita GDP, 1999
Alberta $34,540
Montana $23,376

Alberta is Canada's richest province, while Montana is the United State's 46th richest state. People who haven't driven across the AB/MT border haven't seen the jarring difference between the two, and the difference grows as you head north toward the oil capital of Calgary. The City of Calgary has more people than the entire State of Montana.

Also, the dry western deserts of the US are much higher in elevation than the Canadian water supplies, so they would have to pump the water thousands of feet uphill, an energy-consuming proposition.

The commission still monitors well production, and is a site where this information is available. The site notes that both oil and gas production and oil well completions this year are running behind last years numbers.

This post and the previous one on "Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century?" points to an annoying detail that never seems to get any attention (except from those of us that get annoyed). All the data ever collected by the US government concerning oil and gas should be made available though public internet archives. This would allow anyone to go through the data and come up with statistical correlations from past patterns to estimate future trends and potentially help establish policies. There is absolutely nothing in the records that has any national security implications and no one cares if it is protecting corporate interests.

So I took a look at the RRC site and I note that you can order data as paper and microfiche documents. They also have some online data which is promising since I don't recall hearing about this before.

My wish would be that the feds would invest some money and pull together all the data from the states and put it into a repository that anyone can access. I use the USGS data sets quite a bit to get access to topographic and GIS information for free. This is an example of the kind of data organization that would be ideal to analyze. For fossil fuels, at best we get these hard copy docs or rolled-up PDF files or graphical tools which is just a way for someone else to control the way you can interpret the data. Just getting the raw data would be fine.

Somebody will say it is too late to do this kind of work. All I can say is see the previous post on NG. All indications are that vast swaths of the land will get frac'd and we should have all the data available as GIS info. Isn't this fracing obvious to everyone?

Web - We've had this debate before. For a couple of thousand $'s anyone can get a commercial subscription to all the Texas production history from the beginning of time. Maybe you can't/don't want to pop for it but the Sierra Club, the ACLU, or any other organization interested in informing the public can do so very easily. And anyone with a very basic understand of oil/NG production can plot data till the cows come home...all the software comes free with the subscription. The USGS has full access to the same data and a slew of govt geologists that are free to publish, at tax payer expense, all the results.

IOW there is no lack of access to the data for anyone serious about it's analysis. Just write the check and get on with it. BTW: not sure if the deal can still be had but at one time you could get a free trial memebrship from Drilling Info for a week or two. If so just search the web and grab a terrabite of memory and begin the down load. You'll have enough data to analyze for years. And guess what? Since all the data comes from public sources there is no copy right. And if you want to catch the Bluebonnets you can hop a plane and visit Austin. You can sit in the RRS office and access literally millions of data sets for free. And while you're in town visit the Bureau of Economic Geology at the Un. of Texas: you can access thousands of independent university studies on the subject matters.
I still challenge anyone to point out any industry which has more of its inners workings as readily avaiable to the public as the oil industry in Texas.

Maybe you can't/don't want to pop for it but the Sierra Club, the ACLU, or any other organization interested in informing the public can do so very easily.

Rock, is there a restriction on openly sharing the data set once you subscribed to received access to it?

Wouldn't posting the data set for others to see be tantamount to 'file sharing' movies and music/songs?

So...what could the Sierra Club do with the data set wrt sharing with the public...restricted to making high-level abstraction statements or something like that?

Other wise, a person or organization could buy the data, post it, then the TRRC would not have one other buyer for the data.

H - My dog can get a subscription. I'm not kidding...all I have to do is write the check for her. LOL. And yes...anyone can send all the data to anyone they want. There aren't secret handshakes that get you into the club house. Just can't use the format used in Drilling Info...that is copy writ. Right now...go to and they'll give you a long sales pitch on just how useful they can be. Remember my point: companies like this are just organizing the data. The data is owned by the Texas RRC and thus anyone can access it through them...for free. Actually there's 100X as much data available at the RRC than these commercial companies offer online.

I think some folks think there are secrets we're hiding from everyone. You want to know how much NG came out of an E Texas SG well on a monthly basis? You want to know the exact depth of the production? You want to see the test info on the well? You want to know whose name was on the drilling permit application? You want to see a copy of the log run on the well? You want to know what pipeline the NG is being transported through? You want the name and address of every mineral owner whose land was drilled? You want to know how much acreage is in that well's producing unit? You want to know the name of the company that supplied the cement used to secure the production casing? You want the name of the employee of the cement company that certified the cm job? You want the name and address of the contractor who drilled the well? You want the name of the geologist who witnessed all the logging operations? You want to see every scrap of paper submitted in any unitization meetings? You want to know the diameter and weight per foot of the production casing run? You want to know how long it took drill the well? You want to know every month the well was not producing for whatever reason? How about this: want to know the name every company that applied for a drilling permit withn a 10 miles radius of the lastest SG well I completed? Even easier...takes just 3 clicks.

All that and hundreds of other details are available from the Texas RRC TO EVERYONE FOR FREE. Sorry..didn't mean to yell at you. LOL I'm just getting a little frustrated with folks who think there's some big conspiracy to keep info from them. This isn't the KSA...its Texas.

And to be honest it would be a rather inefficient use of time for folks outside the oil patch to wade thru the data. Most of this has been done and published by others. Like I said earlier the Un. of Texas has thousands of such reports going into enough detail to put you in a coma. But the tin foil hat wearers are free to chase the data all they want. Who knows: maybe they field that secret tank farm we've hidden those billions of bbls of oil we stole from the govt leases. Hmmm...never mind...forget I said that.

BTW: just caught you last statement. The RRC doesn't sell the data to these commercial's free. The value of the commercial suscription is that it's updated monthly and very user friendly. The RRC makes the data available to everyone for free. But they don't give you the software that makes it so easy to use. I mentioned it before: if I want to know exactly how much oil was sold from a specific well in Goliad County, Tevas during Augst 1974 it takes about 4 mouse clicks and 15 seconds. That's a lot more effocient than a 5 hour r/t drive to Austin from Houston. You can get a good bit of data from the RRC online but it isn't nearly as well organized. That's what you're paying the subscition for: ease of access. The data itself is really free.


You are the 'Shell Answerman'.

No worries, the all caps stuff didn't offend.

Just to clarify, I do not have a Tin-Foil Hat...just asking if the data was truly in the public domain, and you have provided a wonderfully clear answer.

Perhaps at your leisure would you entertain my follow-on question?:

Does every state have an agency or organization which provides publicly-available data in a manner similar to the RRCofTX?

What about the Feds for oil/NG/etc wells drilled/produced on Fed lands (including offshore)?

Most of the states I am aware of have some level of online access. LA has a site called SONRIS that is very useful. It integrates maps & satellite photos with well locations, permits, state leases, units, etc.

It is easier for me to navigate than the RRC site, but perhaps not as complete on production data histories.

Offshore, BOEMRE makes all historic production data available. Since thendatabase is so massive, many operators subscribe to Lexco's OWL, a commercial service which formats the data for easier analysis. Maps it, too.

H – Yes…Texas data is all public domain. If you had the time you could post all the data yourself and give it to the world for free. Of course that would take you 100’s of thousands of hours to set it up. That’s why Drilling Info charges a subscription fee. Louisiana has a comparable data base that’s publicly available. Not 100% sure but I think OK, Miss, and Al are similar. The other states I can’t say. But KY is truly odd: when I dealt with them about 6 years ago they didn’t require companies to report how much oil/NG came from their wells…ever. Truly archaic.

The feds provide similar data as Texas. A company called OWL has a subscription service similar to Drilling Info that covers the govt offshore leases. But the data can still be accessed directly but, again, not as easily done as the commercial services.

It just occurred to me: do you know what an electric log for a well is? After the hole is drilled we run electronic instruments at the end of an electric cable. These logging tools measure a variety of rock properties. Besides showing the geology they also tells us if there is oil/NG I the rocks. Well logs are half of the basic data we use to map the geology. Seismic data is the other half of the tool box. But without access to well logs the entire drilling effort in this country would have been impossible. And where do we get this critical log data? From other commercial services called “log libraries”. Again, for a very modest fee anyone can join such a service and have access to millions of such logs. Without wells logs seismic data would be almost worthless. There are also other services that provide map data bases that not only show the locations of all wells ever drilled in this country but also who owns the mineral rights under every acre of the USA. These same maps also show the name of any company that has leased any of those mineral rights…including every federal lease onshore and offshore. Essentially you, Master H, can access ever bit of the data (except seismic data) that any US oil company (from ExxonMobil to the Rockman) uses to generate drilling projects in this country. But don't let that go to your can my dog. LOL. This is one reason why the US abounds in small (as small as one man) independent oil companies while such companies are almost non-existent in the rest of the world.

Regarding this public domain stuff, I am only following the lead of some of the skeptic blogs such as WattsUpWithThat, ClimatAudit, BishopHill, Blackboad, etc who stridently demand every last bit of data that comes directly or indirectly from government funding (much worse than my stridency, guaranteed). If you look at their posts, they all seem to have something to do with not trusting any analysis from scientific institutions unless they can verify it through independent analysis. I don't quite understand what motivates them, but they have small armies of volunteers doing the statistics and when they find something suspicious its like a feeding frenzy. Its also a bit of a mirror universe to what happens on TOD except we don't have small armies, we're more like a bunch of disorganized scout troops.

Web - To be honest I can't blame folks for being somewhat suspicious given the history of govt/biz. You know better than most how being selective in the data mining some analyst can be. The biggest problems are that they'll get hooked into chasing a false lead and ignore truly questionable "info" and then distracting the public with a big expose over nothing. One can approach everything in the world as a potential lie but how does it help the cause to dig into everything just a tad and then have so little resources left to go after the truly important issues.

The best current example is the "dangers" of frac'ing my Yankee cousins were so concerned over. You've seen my numerous post regarding the physical impossibility of a fracture propagated many thousands of feet down back up to the surface. I would bet a number of fairly open minded folks doubted my statement so imagine how it went over with the tin foil hat crowd. And the companies, like Halliburton, were glad to let those fears be the focus. The companies know they would never lose a law suite over that possibility. But it distracted the folks from the real potential danger: the improper disposal of those nasty produced fluids. I've yet to see anyone in the MSM or elsewhere shine the light on that aspect other than me.

Just thought of an even better real life example. Over 35 years ago I was finishing grad school at Texas A&M and saw a report in my Sierra Club magazine (and who's going to believe an oil geologist once belonged to the SC, eh?) describing the efforts of a local chapter to get Dupont to release data on a proposed underground waste disposal well getting rid of some very nasty heavy metals. An attorney in New Orleans was coordinating the effort and was very receptive to my letters offering of provide tech support to the effort. I had some heavy weight folks at TAMU I could access. But then I went to work for Mobil Oil in New Orleans. After numerous efforts to call the attorney without success his secretary told me I should not bother to call anymore. Since I worked for an evil oil company there's no way he was ever going to take a call from me. Don't know if my efforts would have altered the outcome but Dupont got their disposal permit from the state. Wasn't too long after that I dropped my membership and contributions to the SC. You can imagine I wasn't very well recieved by local members.

No doubt there are a few folks on TOD who might not voice their opinion that I'm not to be trusted. Wouldn't bother me at all to hear from them. As I've said before being a petroleum geologist for 35 years I've very use to folks not beleiving what I say. LOL.

And that's where the overly suspicious folks go wrong IMHO. Just like the magician who uses misdirection to keep folks from seeing how the trick is done. They misdirect themselve (somethimes with the help of their targets, I suspect) from the important aspects.

Where did I say someone was lying? I said that no one ever did the work. Consider that example of plotting a distribution of terrain slopes for the USA, no one had ever done that before. It wasn't a case of someone lying, as no one had a plot to lie about. That is what I want to do with a large fossil fuel data set (well, large by your standards but infinitely puny by my standards), do some interesting statistics that no one has done before. But the USA does not compile it in that format.

We are way beyond talking past each other. I can possible see why, because you are talking about the climate science skeptics as believing that someone is lying, whereas I don't care if someone is lying, I just want the data.

Web - Sorry if you thought I was implying you said someone was lying. Not at all. And I agree with you: be great if you had easy access to all the US production history in a usable format.

WHT, all the information that Rockman mentions is available in Canada, too.

You just have to visit the appropriate provincial (or territorial) regulatory agency and ask for it. It helps if you look like you might want to drill an oil well in their jurisdiction, but just print up a business card that says, "WHT Petroleum Inc." and hand it to them. There are a lot of one and two-man oil companies that have hit it big over the years, and for all they know, you might be the next one.

The key to the data is that you have to know how to analyze it, and that is where the skeptics fall down. They don't even know where to find the data, never mind how to figure out what it means, so they have to fall back on someone else's analysis, and they can never trust the validity of that analysis. And with good reason - there are a lot of con artists looking to skim money off naive investors. Any serious oil company would do its own analysis using its own experts or reputable consultants. The government regulators know that, so all the data is readily available to anybody who asks for it.

Thanks. And to think that people bellyache about getting good temperature data for climate studies.

I know what Heisenberg is talking about. He is pointing out that people that have purchased the data, but won't republish it because they are too cowardly. Cowardly in the sense that they don't want to get sued I suppose. So citizens won't do this but governments can, and that's what I am suggesting.

I know exactly what to do with the data once it is there. I want it because I have good ideas for kinds of statistical analyses that no one else has done before.

But the tin foil hat wearers are free to chase the data all they want. Who knows: maybe they field that secret tank farm we've hidden those billions of bbls of oil we stole from the govt leases. Hmmm...never mind...forget I said that.

Like I said, I am doing a statistical analysis. I don't really care about picking out some individual bit of data. The more comprehensive and bigger the set the batter. I don't want to chase the data either and have no commercial needs for it.

I mentioned it before: if I want to know exactly how much oil was sold from a specific well in Goliad County, Tevas during Augst 1974 it takes about 4 mouse clicks and 15 seconds. That's a lot more effocient than a 5 hour r/t drive to Austin from Houston. You can get a good bit of data from the RRC online but it isn't nearly as well organized. That's what you're paying the subscition for: ease of access. The data itself is really free.

To be practical the data download really has to be automated and the data left in a raw state. Mouse-clicking is not the way to handle a lot of data. Let me give you an example of something I have done with public repositories. The USGS site I linked to above gives topographic data points for the entire lower 48 plus some of Canada and Mexico. These are on about 100 meter intervals and the entire set consists of about 5 billion post data points. I set up a script to go and get the data from the USGS server and then do a terrain slope analysis on it and get this curve.

The model is a single parameter fit that estimates the maximum entropy distribution of terrain slopes across the entire country. Geology is really a simple statistical science and I think it obeys more straightforward natural laws than geologists have held to. The point is that I want to see all the data for distributions of oil and gas wells and look for statistical patterns that would be predicted by models that I have. They work for natural phenomena like terrain slopes, etc and I am confident that they should work for oil and natural gas data. The point is that these models are valuable for making predictions on future reserves, maybe not so important for oil anymore but for natural gas, certainly. The idea is to sample the data so that we can extrapolate to the unknown.

The USGS made their topographical and GIS data publicly available in a fairly straightforward manner because people found it useful. All I am asking for is the same thing with our public resources. You can see what what you can do with 5 billion points; how hard could it be to host a few hundred thousand points for individual wells multiplied by a few parameters of interest.

That's the way to do this and am frankly not surprised that no one has done this. If they had, I wouldn't be asking.

Thanks, I have actually used that data recently. The presentation format is quite an improvement from what the EIA had provided before. The problem is that all the data is rolled up and and possibly filtered and binned in ways that you potentially lose important properties. It's really not that much data, they mention they have data from several hundred thousand oil wells here but provide it in a binned format.
So it works OK for doing the following kind of chart that uses EIA data but you can do a lot more WRT correlations if they gave us the comprehensive raw data set.

I recall some past controversy in the Texas Panhandle about the discarding of old drill core samples. Apparently they could be valuable but are difficult to store. Is that truly a significant problem?

robert - The Texas Bureau of Economic Geology at the Un of Texas at Austin is a repository of conventional cores which is avaiable to the public for free. Many students earned their graduate degrees utilizing such data.

There is a similar core repository that the Alberta government maintains at the University of Calgary, but it charges a fee for the use of its facilities:

The Core Research Centre

One of the ERCB’s [Energy Resources Conservation Board's] legislated mandates is to collect, process, and preserve core samples, drill cuttings, and drilling and completion information from oil and gas wells in Alberta. The ERCB requires well licensees to submit these data sets to the CRC. It is also our responsibility to provide the public with access to this material, while maintaining strict rules to safeguard confidential information.

Housed in a massive 18 000-square-metre building in Calgary’s University Research Park, the CRC offers a modern facility to geologists, geoscientists, oilfield service companies, academics, and anyone else with an interest in core samples, drill cuttings, or drilling and completion records (known as tour reports) from Alberta wells. The core and drill cutting/tour report “library” provides the opportunity to collect specialized information for exploration, production, and enhanced recovery. The CRC is wholly funded by fees charged to the customers that use its facilities and services.

As a small operator I have 55 years of experiece with the Texas Railroad Commission, some of it not so good in terms of small infractions of statewide rules governing oil and gas operations... from not having proper signs up on lease entrances to oily dirt around a well head now and then; the TRC makes operators follow the letter of the law and they can be relentless in their scrunity. When we see them driving around our oil fields in their white pickups with Texas Railroad Commission stickers on the door, we jump. Real high.

Every barrel of oil that comes out of the ground must be accounted for and reported, its disposition known even if a quarter barrel of it gets put on a lease road to keep the dust down the TRC knows about it. And if the Texas Railroad Commission knows about it, all Texans know about it. It is all public data.

Some of my greatest battles in this business have been seeking exceptions to drilling spacing and drilling density permitting rules, all of which requires precise geological and engineering evidence, all presented to the TRC thru formal hearings. I have won some and lost some. When I was younger and more motivated some of my best drilling prospects were gleened from reviewing testimony and evidence from TRC hearings and as Mr. Rock says, picking thru logs and test data, making copies, and contouring all around Texas looking for a missed spot, a corner shot or a step out. One mans junk is another's treasure and I have found some nice prizes snooping around the TRC.

I am a fan of the Texas Railroad Commission. I think they provide a great service to operators and to mineral, royalty and surface owners and are fair to all parties. Their basic premise has been to regulate the extraction of oil and natural gas in Texas, to prevent waste and confiscation, and to protect the environment. They have done that and I applaud them for it. The rest of the country, the rest of the world has often modeled their regulatory agencies after Texas and rightfully so.

God Bless Texas.

Mikey - Enjoyed your history review. But you do understand that some on TOD realize you're lying your butt off. LOL. Texas is dominated by the oil companies and no dang state agency is going to run rough shod over the oil patch.

You may have caught some of my chats with folks who cannot believe any Texas state agenecy is going to get in our way let alone penalize us. They won't believe these public servants will act a good shepards of the land and protect the interest of the common man. I also have something of a love/hate relationship with the TRRC. But as I've mentioned before I have a 12 yo daughter that drinks well water every day. So I'm always ready to help them bust oil field polluters.

And now some of those same folks think I'm lying by butt off. At least I'm in good company.

Mr. Rock, I guess I have am too old and way to proud to make apologies for being an oil man nor am I inclined to feel the need to qualify why I believe the Texas Railroad Commission serves the people of Texas well, why it is ludicrous to want to punish Exxon for making enormous profits; hell, I was literally threatened on this TOD site for giving folks the beneifit of my 10 years of well control experience to say that BP and WWC did an amazing job of controlling the blowout flow from Macondo and capping and killing that well in 5000 feet of water with robots in 3 months. The reasons for the blowout aside (all blowouts have some human error component to them), controlling it was an engineering accomplishment of great proportions. People wanted my head for saying it.

All the speculation about Ghawar decline rates aside, the perddy colored graphs and plots, the statistical data, sometimes it helps people to know what the real deal is, at least our side of the deal, if it comes straight from the horses mouth. Clearly you and I are old horses that have been around the pasture many times. People can hate us (they do I know), can believe we are lying (we don't do that where I come from) and othewise not care where their gasoline comes from as long as there is plenty of it, its cheap, and they don't have to feel guilty about it. But one of the reasons that people do not understand what we go thru to provide our country its energy needs, why they hate our guts is that we don't speak up, we don't even try to educate people. Our industry has failed miserably in that regard. You and I and others need to speak up, even if they think we are "lying." It is actually our duty.

Thanks. You are much more diplomatic than I am and people enjoy your comments. I am sure they do not believe you are lying. So, keep fighting the fight.

Keep on talkin' guys.. We need to know where our energy comes from. Ever since I saw my neighbor up the road run an experimental corn ethanol process, and then run his tractor on it, I've been kinda obsessed with growing my own fuel.

This morning I checked on the 68 acres of conventional (GMO modified, fertilized with natural-gas derived ammonia) corn I planted two weeks ago. I was quite surprised when I did the math and figured out that those approximately 2 million corn plants that are just breaking through the soil today will produce enough corn to feed a whole lot of livestock, as well as make enough ethanol for me to drive my car over a million miles.

Someone's going to hate me, think I'm lying, or both. My observation of haters is that they generally have something about themselves they really don't like... Which is fine with me, but like Rockman & Mikey, I'm going to keep talkin' my experience. If any of you hate what I'm saying, or don't believe me, then come see it in person, or at least tell me in person. If the haters want to hate, go right ahead, but leave the rest of us alone who are actually trying to make a world that 10 billion people can live in.

Can you offer any more details about how he runs his tractor on ethanol - seems like the logical option for the farming community

Vladimir, Rock, WHT, IBMikey...thank you all for the great info...this is a really interesting thread.

Maybe TOD could put up a PayPal special donation box and hire WHT and buy him the data and he can publish his results here?

Perhaps Jonathan Callahan could help present such data in interesting and easy to understand formats as well.

Too bad we can't get such data for ME countries...'Feeding Frenzy' would be quite the understatement.

So, it sounds as if we would need considerably more wells in the ANWR (more than KIC-1) to properly characterize its oil reserves. I'm assuming that some amount of seismic imaging was done in ANWR, or is that not the case?

Hats off to Texas and TRRC and to honest, good-hearted operators who find us oil and NG AND do their best to be good stewards of the environment.

Edit: Tip of the hat to HO for putting up this very interesting and informative post!

H - I don't have a very good handle on how well they've been able to characterize the N Slope potential. But let me tell you why I take such estimates with a huge grain of salt. When I started in 1975 at Mobil Oil I was given a new field discovery to develop in the offshore GOM. Had the best seismic available and two exploratory wells that discovered two different sets of reservoirs that contained oil/NG. So we set a development platform and moved the rig on to drill our LOW RISK DEVELOPMENT WELLS. Being just a newbie all I did was shuffle the paper work as we drilled off the exploration dept's mapping.

And the first 5 wells I drilled were DRY HOLES! The original estimate of 25 million bbls of oil reduced to 1 million bbls. And the NG went from 120 bcf to 25 bcf. And this wasn't an estimate of reserves on millions of acres in a trend with few wells drilled. This was on a 5,000 lease in the middle of one of the heaviest drilled regions on the planet. They made a simple assumption: if the few reservoir traps tested by those two wells contained oil/NG then many of the similar traps on the same structure would likely contain oil/NG also. They were wrong...very WRONG. I was unofficially dubbed the "Undevelopment Geologist". A little funny now but not at all back then when I was just beginning my career.

So now when you see me being less than enthusiastic about speculation on oil/NG in a very large area with relatively few wells drilled you'll understand my attitude. Or as we career development geologists like to say: "You can always tell when a wildcatter is exaggerating...his lips are moving".

No offense westexas/Rocky.

So, it sounds as if we would need considerably more wells in the ANWR (more than KIC-1) to properly characterize its oil reserves. I'm assuming that some amount of seismic imaging was done in ANWR, or is that not the case?

Two seasons of seismic work in 1984-85 produced 1,452 linemiles of data (607 line miles dynamite-sourced and 845 line miles vibraseis) in the 1002 area. For the new ANWR assessment, these data were reprocessed and re-evaluated, Bird said.

In addition, data from wells drilled near the 1002 area became available for the resource study and provided valuable well control, he added.

"I think there are 15-16 additional wells that we had to work with this time that were not available earlier. These are all wells that are within 15-20 miles from the 1002 boundary," Bird said.

Some well data in the area remain proprietary. Bird said the ANWR assessment area includes a 100,000-acre expanse of Native-owned land. An existing 15,000-foot well on that land could have furnished additional data for the resource assessment.

"When you look at the structure maps, you see that this well is located on one of the very biggest structures in the entire area," Bird noted.

But that well is a tight hole. (Bird said the USGS was able to obtain and use information from a well drilled downdip on the flank of the same structure, in federal waters.)

"One of the biggest frustrations in terms of data is that there are still a significant number of wells that are as much as 18 years old that are still proprietary, that are still tight holes, in the vicinity of ANWR," Houseknecht commented.

from this article

I think that pretty much fleshes out the extent of the ANWR data--just a tad thin.
The 1002 area is 1.5 million acres and the wells used in the its assessment are 15-20 miles outside that chunk of realestate. Lets see a twenty mile by twenty mile square is a tad over a quarter million acres. Not much interpolation and extrapolation going on there?- )


"Historically railroads had been built to connect existing towns and cities, but there weren’t any going West."

I know that this isn't the main thesis of you article by any means, but ...

My grandfather made quite a good living surveying and overseeing the construction of railroad spur lines from the nearest main line to whatever mineral deposit someone wanted to develop. Look at old maps of the west. At one time there was a railroad track going to almost every farm in eastern Colorado. Far more track miles in toto than the main lines in toto. A number of muckraker articles were written about the depredations of the railroad barons with shipping costs being the major reason for bankruptcy of many westerners. It amounted to a sub-genre within the muckraker movement.

I have no personal knowledge of the situation in Texas, my grandfather worked mainly in California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico in mining rails, not agricultural rail. There -was- a need for government regulation in those days, for sure. I suppose that need was the original justification for the Texas Railway Commission. As to how well it actually worked in the service of the people of Texas, I have no idea.