Wikiwell website shows oil and gas well history

·3 min read

A website providing information about oil and gas wells throughout North America now has more Alberta wells, allowing landowners to check the history and status of wells in and around their properties.

WellWiki.org was created by Joel Gehman, a professor of strategy, entrepreneurship and management at the University of Alberta School of Business.

The project started when Gehman was working on his PhD at Pennsylvania State University and became interested in the oil and gas industry, then taking off there with the advent of fracking. He started to compile data on wells and continued this focus after moving to the University of Alberta in 2012.

As part of a grant application, Gehman proposed to create a website allowing members of the public to access the information he worked to compile. He won the grant and spent parts of 2013 and 2014 building a prototype of the site. Since then, he has worked to expand the site and increase its coverage.

WellWiki.org now includes over 4.3 million wells drilled by almost 136,000 producers. By his estimates, there are 5.8 million wells in North America. “So about a million and a half to go,” he said.

Each U.S. state and Canadian province also has its own rules and regulations for the oil and gas industry, influencing how information is categorized, stored and accessed. “There’s a whole wide variety of ways of how we find the data,” said Gehman.

The more recent wells are, the more likely they are in the database. Some of the oldest wells, drilled before regulations or regulators, might not be included.

The record for each well contains its unique well identifier (UWI) number, operator, legal land location and license status, among other information. Each well has a unique page, providing a map and details of its history and production output.

With support by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Gehman was able to expand the site’s coverage in Alberta. This was done to make oil and gas well data more accessible to landowners, municipalities and other stakeholders across Alberta.

Alberta features 619,503 wells in the database drilled by 18,015 producers.

“That’s every well the regulator knows exists,” said Gehman. “But there was some early activity back at the start of the early 1900s, so it’s very possible there are some wells that never got recorded.”

Wheatland County, Alberta, contains 18,110 wells in the dataset.

The top three producers in the county account for about 86 per cent of its wells. These include Lynx Energy ULC (8,014 wells or about 44 per cent), Torxen Energy Ltd. (4,400 wells or about 24 per cent) and Ember Resources Inc. (3,256 wells or about 18 per cent).

The next most prominent producers are Canadian Natural Resources (702 wells), Ovintiv Canada ULC (412 wells), Persist Oil and Gas Inc. (251 wells) and Cenovus Energy Inc. (233 wells). A total of 86 other producers have wells in Wheatland County, all with fewer than 100 wells.

Of Wheatland’s 18,110 wells, about 12 per cent (2,111) have suspended licenses and about five per cent (894) are abandoned. A total of 975 wells have received reclamation certification.

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times