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.
The data for map generation was acquired from UpstreamDB for well locations, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder for selected demographic data, and Simply Analytics (which withdraws data from the U.S. Census Bureau) for demographics data. Mapped well data was layered with U.S. Census data separated by year, and well location data isolated by year over time. Statistical testing as well as geospatial mapping indicated the degree of changes between, and within each region in patterns in overall population growth and density over time as compared to active hydrocarbon production in the two regions. Specifically, demographic data in maps depicted changes in ethnicity, median income, gender, age and unemployment in the two regions during the selected years and gave an indication as to whether “boomtown characteristics” were being experienced in the Permian Basin region.
Identifying whether or not the Permian region may be undergoing boomtown growth as has happened in Eagle Ford Shale, will inform stakeholders in the Permian region that relatively fast and intense growth in population is highly likely. Anticipating this growth in population, and therefore, the concomitant greater need in transportation, law enforcement, housing, utilities, and other social services will be of value to leaders and planners in the public sector as well as businesses in the private sector. Thus, all stakeholders in the Permian region will be better able to prepare for future impacts from active hydrocarbon drilling and boomtown generation.