Animating Data: A Different Way to Look at Marcellus Shale Drilling

At Rhiza, we love to experiment with new ways of visualizing data that help tell better data stories. In most of our work environments, using data is kind of difficult and visualizing is usually left to data experts. We’d love to see a future where sharing data visualizations (maps, charts, explanations, etc) is as easy as recording and sharing a video on YouTube. Not everything produced will be stellar in quality, but at least we’ll all be a lot further down the road towards breaking down the traditional data silos and moving data aggregation and visualization solely out of the hands of database admins and graphic designers. We’ll still need those folks, their jobs will just get a lot more fun!

To this end, when I saw a data animation created by John Detwiler that showed the spread of drilled Marcellus shale gas wells in Bradford County, I wanted to create my own data animation telling the same story, but for the entire state of Pennsylvania. I recruited Jeff Christensen here at Rhiza to work with me on creating a visualization that would not only show the locations of the drilled wells over time, but also visualize the number of wells drilled per month. The video below is the result of that work:

While this video is not going to win any Academy Awards, it was fairly easy to put together using our basic charting and mapping tools. The neat thing, at this point, is that if you want to change something about the visualizations we’ve done, you can go to the dataset page for the drilled wells data from the PA Dept of Environmental Protection and create a visualization on a map or chart that fits your data story.

At Rhiza, we’re working on making this entire process a lot easier for our customers (like the great folks at, but there’s always more work to be done. We’ll keep you informed as we make progress towards our company’s goal of making it so easy that anyone can do it.