Throughout the western United States, increased demand for energy is driving the rapid development of oil, gas (including shale gas and coal-bed methane), and uranium, as well as renewable energy resources such as geothermal, solar, and wind. Much of the development in the West is occurring on public lands, including those under Federal and State jurisdictions. In Colorado and New Mexico, these public lands make up about 40 percent of the land area. Both states benefit from the revenue generated by energy production, but resource managers and other decisionmakers must balance the benefits of energy development with the potential consequences for ecosystems, recreation, and other resources. Although a substantial amount of geospatial data on existing energy development and energy potential is available, much of this information is not readily accessible to natural resource decisionmakers, policymakers, or the public. Furthermore, the data often exist in varied formats, requiring considerable processing before these datasets can be used to evaluate tradeoffs among resources, compare development alternatives, or quantify cumulative impacts.
To allow for a comprehensive evaluation among different energy types, an interdisciplinary team of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists has developed an online Interactive Energy Atlas for Colorado and New Mexico. The Energy and Environment in the Rocky Mountain Area (EERMA) interdisciplinary team includes investigators from several USGS science centers1. The purpose of the EERMA Interactive Energy Atlas is to facilitate access to geospatial data related to energy resources, energy infrastructure, and natural resources that may be affected by energy development. The Atlas is designed to meet the needs of various users, including GIS analysts, resource managers, policymakers, and the public, who seek information about energy in the western United States. Currently, the Atlas has two primary capabilities, a GIS data viewer and an interactive map gallery.
GIS data viewer
The GIS data viewer allows users to preview and download GIS data related to energy potential and development for oil and gas, coal, uranium, solar, wind, and geothermal resources in Colorado and New Mexico. Along with GIS data from different sources, the Atlas features new USGS geospatial datasets for wind and solar energy facilities in both states (see Locations and attributes of wind turbines in Colorado, 2009; Locations and attributes of wind turbines in New Mexico, 2009; and Locations and Attributes of Utility-Scale Solar Power Facilities in Colorado and New Mexico, 2011). The wind turbine datasets are currently being updated for turbines added in 2011.
These datasets were produced by the EERMA team in support of the Atlas and to fill an existing information gap. Other energy-related GIS layers include data obtained from USGS data series and energy assessments, the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, the U.S. National Atlas, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Data related to natural resources are also provided and include datasets for hydrology, land cover, and land protection status. All GIS layers and associated metadata can be previewed online prior to downloading. The GIS data viewer and geospatial data that are available on the Atlas represent a valuable resource for experienced GIS users.
Interactive map gallery
The interactive map gallery contains a collection of maps that compile and summarize thematically related data layers in a user-friendly format. The maps are dynamic, allowing users to explore data at different resolutions and obtain information about the features being displayed. For example, an oil and gas map is provided that depicts active wells in Colorado and New Mexico. At the largest extent, a user can view well density categories, or alternatively, well pad densities (these values are different if multiple wells are drilled on one pad). As the user zooms in, detailed well pad locations appear, along with information about directional drill lines connecting wells and well pads (where those data are available). Additional information such as well type or production quantity can be displayed by clicking on an individual well on the map. The interactive maps allow users to pan, zoom in and out, turn data layers on and off, identify features, and change the underlying base map. Satellite imagery constitutes one base map, which allows the user to see the actual disturbance footprint associated with the development of the different energy resources. All interactive maps can be downloaded directly from the Atlas and are designed for less experienced GIS users who want to view multiple data layers simultaneously. Samples of the interactive maps are highlighted in several slide shows on the Atlas web site.
Future Atlas enhancements
To facilitate the integration of geospatial data into the decision-making process, future enhancements to the Interactive Energy Atlas will include the following:
- Spatial analysis tools for resource managers that allow users to evaluate the potential effects of energy development on terrestrial and hydrologic systems.
- Spatially explicit estimates of potential future oil and gas well densities in the Piceance Basin of northwestern Colorado, which can be used to project the effects on terrestrial and hydrologic systems.
1 Fort Collins Science Center: Tasha Carr, Drew Ignizio, and Nils Babel; Rocky Mountain Geographic Science Center: Jay Diffendorfer; Colorado Water Science Center: Ken Leib and Josh Linard; New Mexico Water Science Center: Anne-Marie Matherne; Central Energy Resources Science Center: Sarah Hawkins; Core Science Systems: Natalie Latysh.