Comparison of Two Active Hydrocarbon Production Regions in Texas to Determine Boomtown Growth and Development: A Geospatial Analysis of Active Well Locations and Demographic Changes, 2000-2017
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The purpose of this research was to compare two shale play regions of Texas to assess the extent to which differences existed in geospatial patterns of highly active petroleum and natural gas mining sites in relationship to demographic changes from the years 2000-2017. Two questions guided this research: 1) To what extent might differences occur between the Eagle Ford Shale region and the Permian Basin region in relation to well locations of hydrocarbon drilling and population and spatial demographics and 2) After examining the differences between the two regions, is it possible to establish the more recent areas in Permian Basin region as trending toward ‘boomtown’ growth and development? Thus, the overarching aim of this research was to understand the significance of changes between, and within the two regions, in terms of geospatial patterns of active well locations and selected “boomtown” demographics. The unconventional hydrocarbon activity (i.e., hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”) that began to flourish in the mid-2000s in the Eagle Ford Shale Play region was compared to the Texas portion of the Permian Basin region, as the former region represents a longer established area of production of natural gas, while the second represents relatively recent growth in well locations and production of natural gas from hydraulic fracturing. By comparing these two regions on rates of well locations and population, it was hypothesized that the “newer,” more recently fracked, more rural Permian Basin region would demonstrate similar signs of “boomtown” growth as was the case with the more the established Eagle Ford Shale region in earlier years. This research concluded that the geospatial patterns in well locations and demographic changes did reveal signs of marked increase in the Permian Basin as compared to Eagle Ford, indicating that the Permian Basin region is likely to experience, or may be in the throes of experiencing, the same or similar rate of “boomtown” growth as Eagle Ford Shale. The analysis was performed in two parts. Part 1 called for statistical analysis to establish whether there were statistically significant differences between the Eagle Ford Shale region and the Permian Basin region. The statistical analysis also considered whether the Permian Basin region was statistically greater than the Eagle Ford Shale region on demographic variables related to boomtown growth and development. Part 1 also presented descriptive data which supported the findings of the statistical testing. Part 2 was comprised of in-depth geospatial mapping and spatial statistic testing of the demographic variables within each region. Geospatial analyses consisted of Active Well Analysis, Cluster Analysis of Active Wells, Nearest Neighbor Analysis of Active Wells, Kernel Density of Active Wells Analysis, Active Wells Point Density Hotspot Analysis (Getis-Ord Hotspot and Coldspot Analysis), Active Well Area Hotspot Analysis, Population Density Analysis, Population Density Hotspot Analysis, Median Household Income Map Analysis, Unemployment Map Analysis, Gender- Male Map Analysis, Ethnicity-Hispanic Map Analysis, and Age Percentages Figure Analysis. Part 2 supported and enhanced the results of Part 1 for understanding the differences between the regions, as well as, how the Permian Basin region might compare to the more established Eagle Ford Shale region in terms of boomtown growth and development.