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Regulator building database of aerial maps to track Oklahoma oil field activity

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is building a database of historical aerial photographs to help track oil and natural gas activity in the state.
BY JAY F. MARKS jmarks@opubco.com Published: November 9, 2012
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/articleid/3726809/1/pictures/1879737">Photo - Historic aerial photos allow field inspectors at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to pinpoint oil and natural gas wells. This photo shows the area around the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City in 2010, at left, and 1941. Photos provided
Historic aerial photos allow field inspectors at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to pinpoint oil and natural gas wells. This photo shows the area around the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City in 2010, at left, and 1941. Photos provided

Records do not even exist for some of the state's oldest wells, as permits were not required on wells drilled before the 1920s.

‘Critical' tool

The commission's 58 field inspectors have laptop computers that allow them to access the database. Aerial photos can help them find lease roads or identify choke points to deploy equipment when dealing with an oil spill.

“This is really critical for them,” Lord said. “This gives them a timeline of events that happen in the field.”

He said inspectors have been working for the past five years to map the GPS location of every known well in Oklahoma.

Once that effort is complete, those locations will be integrated into the agency's database of wastewater injection wells.

Eventually, the database will be made available to the public on the commission's website, Lord said, but that likely won't be until after the current oil and gas boom is over.


We're building a library for future use. We'll scan until we run out of money.”

Charles Lord

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission

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