When data pays: Alaska provides access to oil, gas drilling data

Ahead of an auction to lease land for energy exploration, the state is combining public information with specialized seismic data to attract prospective bidders.

To attract energy companies  to Alaska's lease sale of large, contiguous acreage blocks in its hydrocarbon basin, officials at the state's Division of Oil and Gas have opened a trove of exploration data, including seismic surveys that had been confidential until recently.

DOG officials compiled data from multiple sources into a single Special Alaska Lease Sale Areas (SALSA) tool  that investors and researchers can use ahead of the sale to better understand the land that’s available, who owns it, its bidding history, what wells are present, which exploration wells had hydrocarbons flow to the surface and details about rock samples taken from those wells.

“There’s a number of different repositories for some fairly complex data, and everybody’s gotten much better at distributing it -- using websites and different tools that you can use -- but it’s still a little confusing,” said Kevin Frank, a petroleum geologist at DOG, part of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. “The core of our effort here is to bring some focus to where do you look for this stuff, what do you want to ask for.”

Individual agencies such as the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys and Geologic Materials Center collect the data, and the tool serves as a roadmap to tell users which agency to go to for what data. It also lays out the types of data available for three specific areas: Harrison Bay, which encompasses more than 66,000 acres; Storms, which has about 30,000 acres; and Gwydyr Bay/North Shore, which has 23,000 acres.

“It’s not frictionless access,” Frank said. “What we’re trying to do is reduce the friction to point to what’s germane to these areas that are available in this upcoming sale.”

The tool takes the form of a PDF slideshow rife with maps, images, graphs and links that take users to not only the data, but research on where the data came from and how interested parties can get copies of it. For example, one slide offers a link to a map of the three areas that lets users zoom in to see dots, indicating wells, and polygons, indicating areas. Clicking on a well brings up a pop-up window that tells the its name, the operator’s name, geographic area and depths. Clicking on a polygon brings up a window with information such as name, permit number and the cost of buying the dataset on that area.

That’s because the report, released in July, is also a way for the state to recoup costs it incurred as part of the seismic data-collection process. Completed by exploration companies, the surveys can be released a decade after they were completed, according to a requirement of Alaska’s tax credit program that started in 2003 to promote oil and gas exploration and subsequent development. Under it, the state covered a portion of the costs for the work.

“This tax credit program provided credit for work performed, such as seismic data acquisition, well data, exploration drilling and other things,”  Natural Resources Deputy Commissioner Mark Wiggin said. “It turns out, the state for paid an enormous portion of the work -- somewhere between 45 and 85 percent of every dollar.”

Some of the data is gathered via seismic shoots, in which a high-explosive charge is set off underground and measurements from the resulting ultrasonic sound waves provide clues about where to drill.  

“They’re tens of millions of dollars to shoot these seismic shoots, maybe even up to $100 million for the very biggest,” he added. “If you’re shooting $50 million up to $100 million, the state’s paying $40 [million] to $85 million for a $100 million dataset," he said. "Luckily, there weren’t that many of those.”

The first seismic dataset was created in 2006, so this is the second year the state has been releasing such data, which is sizable. One dataset is 270 terabytes, he said.

“What do we do with the data? We’re state agencies. We’re not oil and gas explorers. We are resource managers and regulators,” Wiggin said. “We were trying to find a way to maximize the benefit of this seismic data, to get it out there.”

The datasets can be delivered in several ways: via FTP, download or printouts, for instance.

To access the SALSA data, prospective users need to know it exists, and they need to know to visit Natural Resources’ website and search for it by name. That’s hugely limiting, said Noel Isama, senior policy analyst at the Sunlight Foundation.

“If this information is being sought after by many, the State would have done well to publicize the release as much as possible and provide easy access to it,” he wrote in an email. “Making it prominent on the relevant website or making it accessible in multiple places would help here too.”

“This a positive step in the right direction, but more can be done to make this easier to use and increase the level of transparency,” Isama added. “The State should consider setting up a special website or portal, which makes it easier for them to upload information in ways that aren’t solely PDFs. Increased transparency, with equal and free access should always be the goal, especially when it comes to issues that are of major concern to the community and other interested stakeholders.” 

NEXT STORY: Open data grows up

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.