May 23, 2019

WellWiki.org: Keeping track of all Alberta’s oil and gas wells

Oil and gas wells have been drilled across Alberta for decades. While the Alberta Energy Regulator keeps track of all the wells and what company is drilling for what, the where question hasn’t been easy for an ordinary Albertan, or someone thinking of buying a property, to inquire about any wells that may be nearby. Until now.

Joel Gehman, a professor in the School of Business at the University of Alberta, has built WellWiki.org, a website loaded with information about each of the roughly 600,000 oil and gas wells that dot the landscape of Alberta. “These wells could be operating, and actively producing. Or they could be in some stage of inactivity or even just in the early stages where they’re just being licensed and drilled,” says Gehman. “Every well has a biography. The website is trying to tell the story of each individual well and provide the full chronology of what’s happened there.”

Gehman first started collecting data about wells back in 2013 as part of his research into how corporations respond to concerns around sustainability. Recently, with $35,000 of funding from AREF, Gehman hired a project manager and two software engineering students to help him expand the site and add thousands of pages of information. The new data of Alberta oil and gas wells went live in December, 2018. “The goal for the project is to simply make it easier for the average citizen to learn information about oil and gas activity that’s happening in their community, neighborhood or backyard,” says Gehman.

If you see a well somewhere, all you have to do is make note of the company name and well identification number on the signage at the well pad, and use that information to find the well on the website. Information about that particular well will pop up—when they started and finished drilling, a map, the depth of the well, and license number. When you search by company name, you also see all the other wells it operates. You can also search by location.

“Resources like WellWiki allow folks on both sides of a real estate transaction to understand what’s happening on the land,” says Gehman. “There are many things involved in a real estate transaction, this isn’t necessarily going to be the biggest one, but it’s an important piece of awareness to have.” In some cases, when the well was drilled it was in the middle of a farmer’s field, but new neighborhoods are moving into the area. “That’s not the well’s fault,” he says. “That’s the urban sprawl. But nonetheless, as that happens, the people moving into those neighborhoods may want to be aware of what’s happening in adjacent parcels of land.”

The original website was getting about 10,000 visits a year—including from people working at oil and gas companies. The new and improved WellWiki.org will likely see more visitors from outside the energy industry. “The target user for this website is anyone who has an interest in oil and gas activity in their community.”

For more information, please visit WellWiki.

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