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Check Out Our Natural Gas & Oil Drilling Collection

Now that we’ve got our image gallery all organized and pretty, we don’t want to keep it to ourselves. We want to share our images with you and ask what you think. So without further ado, here is our biggest collection, Natural Gas and Oil Drilling. The images in this collection show the impacts of exploration, drilling, production, storage and transport of natural gas and oil. This gallery contains images of some beautiful Western landscapes too, like Valle Vidal, Raton Basin in New Mexico, shown here:

Valle Vidal

Or how about pictures from the the San Juan Basin of Colorado and New Mexico, where coalbed methane development has forever changed the landscape:

San Juan Basin coalbed methane (CBM) development

Take a look at our Upper Green River Valley, Wyoming set, then read more it in our blog posts.

Also in this collection are the Roan Plateau, Colorado set, with stunning visuals like this:

Roan Plateau, Colorado

But don’t stop there. There are 21 sets in this collection including the Pronghorn Roadkill Accident in the Jonah Gas Field of Wyoming; the Otero Mesa, in the Permian Basin of New Mexico; the Oil Sands/Oil Shale set; a simulation of proposed drilling in Grand Mesa, Colorado; and the Wyoming Range, Bridger-Teton National Forest.

There are images from the Montara Oil Spill off the coast of Australia in August of 2009, a blowout that provided us an unhappy preview of what can go wrong with offshore drilling:

Montara Oil Spill - August 25, 2009

Dirty Snow on the North Slope of Alaska:

North Slope - Winter 2006, Detail 3

And the tragic BP/Deepwater Horizon blowout in our own Gulf of Mexico almost a year ago:

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill - FSU Sampling Cruise - June 22, 2010

Go check out these and many other images now at our SkyTruth Gallery. And we’ll be back with our next collection soon.

Images, images and more images!

We’ve just finished a pretty big behind the scenes job here at SkyTruth, moving all of our images from an old location to our new gallery space in Flickr. So this will be the first in a series of blogs we’re going to post to re-introduce our images and picture galleries to you. Some of this work shows images we’ve created and collected for various projects over the course of the last few years. Oldies but goodies – we hope you enjoy them!

Flickr allows us to organize our images in Sets (based on a common issue or geography) and group related Sets into Collections. We’ll start this tour of our work by looking into our Natural Gas and Oil Drilling collection (probably our most popular gallery).

The first set we’re featuring is a big one (don’t be intimidated – click away!) full of satellite images, aerial photographs and other pics and maps showing the rapid spread of energy development in the Upper Green River Valley of western Wyoming, focused on the Jonah and Pinedale Anticline natural gas fields. This set includes time-series of images for both gas fields, spanning 1986 to 2008. Try out the Slideshow tool to see how this landscape has changed over time.

Air photo of natural gas drilling in the Jonah field, upper Green River valley, Wyoming. Photo credit: Bruce Gordon / EcoFlight.

This is an area we continue to monitor on an annual basis; we’re just finishing up processing a September 2010 SPOT satellite image to extend the time series of imagery being used by researchers who are studying the long term impact of energy development on two key big game species, Mule Deer and Pronghorn.

To read more about the Upper Green River Valley, the work we’ve done and the images we’ve produced, click here.

Measuring the Direct Landscape Impact of Natural Gas Drilling

Gas-drilling activity on the Pinedale Anticline, October 2005.

Pinedale, Wyoming: the Pinedale Anticline natural-gas field is one of the largest tight-gas sandstone reservoirs in the Greater Green River Basin of southwest Wyoming. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) controls 80% of the mineral rights in the 198,034-acre area. In 2008 the BLM proposed a new development plan that includes 10-acre spacing of wells, a potential 4,400 additional wells in the field.

Google Earth image showing gas-drilling impact on part of the Pinedale Anticline, August 2005.

SkyTruth measured the amount of landscape already directly impacted by natural-gas development in the Pinedale area. The analysis was done using SPOT XS satellite imagery acquired in September 2007, visually identifying the infrastructure — well pads, service roads, yard facilities, and pipeline corridors — associated with developing the field. The analysis was verified using aerial photos from 2005, and GIS data on all gas and oil wells downloaded from the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission on June 26, 2008:

The total area directly impacted by natural-gas drilling as of September 2007 was 5,194 acres.

Gas-and-oil infrastructure in the Pinedale Anticline field at that time included:

  • 353 well pads covering 2,521 acres with a median size of 6 acres
  • 10 facilities covering 586 acres with a median size of 11 acres
  • 161 miles of service roads covering 1,559 acres
  • 17 miles of pipeline corridor covering 527 acres

Video Showing History and Extent of Drilling in the Rockies

As seen yesterday morning in the “Big Tent” at the DNC in Denver:


For The Wilderness Society, SkyTruth produced a 3-1/2 minute narrated video showing the extent of drilling across the Rocky Mountain states, featuring a time-lapse animation of the drilling history of Wyoming. You can access the video at the Better Energy website, view it on YouTube, or for a higher-quality experience, watch it at EmPivot, the green-video site.

Many groups provided us with photos and other assistance; there’s a full page of credits on the Better Energy web page. Ecofusion provided much technical and creative horsepower (they also worked on our virtual tour video of drilling impacts in Wyoming’s Upper Green River Valley). We generated the Wyoming drilling animation and the full Rockies flyover sequences using Google Earth. So of course we’ve also created a Google Earth KMZ file for each state, with all of the well data (nearly 300,000 wells). If you’d like to check out the wells nearest you, get Google Earth and download the files for Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The Wyoming well data are animated so you can watch the drilling history of the entire state unfold right onscreen; be sure to click on and read the Viewing Tips to learn how to use the animation feature.

Enjoy the flick, Drilling Gone Wrong: The Rockies on the Brink. Then cruise around our interactive map showing some of the areas in the West where drilling is causing conflicts.

New Map – Conflicts Over Drilling in the Rocky Mountain West


We’ve been having fun with the MyMaps application in Google Maps. Anyone can build their own custom maps and publish them online. This is really useful and kind of fun if you’re a map-geek like me. We just created a map of the Rocky Mountain states (CO, MT, NM, UT, WY) showing some of the places where conflict has emerged recently because of the rapid pace of drilling, mostly for natural gas. This is not just about tree-huggers; many of these conflicts involve local landowners, ranchers, hunters, outfitters and ordinary folks who are angry about the impacts to the land and wildlife, pollution of once-pristine Western air and water, and decline in their quality of life. So check out the map.

And if you get inspired to create your own map that tells an environmental story, please share it with us: add a comment to this post, or send us an email.

By the way, our interactive conflicts map is featured on a new website, Why The Favors (WTF??), making its debut this week at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.