Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Oil and gas development footprint in the Piceance Basin, western Colorado

March 1, 2018

Understanding long-term implications of energy development on ecosystem functionrequires establishing regional datasets to quantify past development and determine relationships to predict future development. The Piceance Basin in western Colorado has a history of energy production and development is expected to continue into the foreseeable future due to abundant natural gas resources. To facilitate analyses of regional energy development we digitized all well pads in the Colorado portion of the basin, determined the previous land cover of areas converted to well pads over three time periods (2002–2006, 2007–2011, and 2012–2016), and explored the relationship between number of wells per pad and pad area to model future development. We also calculated the area of pads constructed prior to 2002. Over 21 million m2 has been converted to well pads with approximately 13 million m2 converted since 2002. The largest land conversion since 2002 occurred in shrub/scrub (7.9 million m2), evergreen (2.1 million m2), and deciduous (1.3 million m2) forest environments based on National Land Cover Database classifications. Operational practices have transitioned from single well pads to multi-well pads, increasing the average number of wells per pad from 2.5 prior to 2002, to 9.1 between 2012 and 2016. During the same time period the pad area per well has increased from 2030 m2 to 3504 m2. Kernel density estimation was used to model the relationship between the number of wells per pad and pad area, with these curves exhibiting a lognormal distribution. Therefore, either kernel density estimation or lognormal probability distributions may potentially be used to model land use requirements for future development. Digitized well pad locations in the Piceance Basin contribute to a growing body of spatial data on energy infrastructure and, coupled with study results, will facilitate future regional and national studies assessing the spatial and temporal effects of energy development on ecosystem function.

Publication Year 2018
Title Oil and gas development footprint in the Piceance Basin, western Colorado
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.10.280
Authors Cericia D. Martinez, Todd M. Preston
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Index ID 70196832
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center