Data Dig in to the details...
Notes on Data, Methodology, and Shortcomings
Much effort has been spent mapping the world’s oil, gas, and coal deposits for exploration and extraction. Parallel to this activity, increased awareness of the importance of conserving areas of natural value has led to projects defining and mapping legally protected areas. As the global community considers de-carbonization scenarios, these protected areas stand out as ideal candidates for non-extraction policies.
The Leave it in the Ground Initiative has developed resources for quantifying potential carbon dioxide emissions under the world’s protected areas and efforts to mine or drill for it. These include country statistics (deposits and extraction projects), per-park statistics (extraction projects), geospatial maps, fact sheets, case studies, and reports. This document explains the process (and some of its shortcomings) used to develop the underlying values applied in the above products.
This project has encompassed two complementary methodologies.
The first involves processing Rystad and Global Energy Monitor data to track current and planned extraction operations in protected areas.
The second focuses on the area-based analysis of oil, gas, and coal deposits with overlapping protected areas to estimate how much potential CO2 emissions are under each country’s protected areas. Values for both reserves (proven volumes of energy resources economically exploitable at today’s prices and using today’s technology) and resources (proven amounts of energy resources which cannot currently be exploited for technical and/or economic reasons, as well as unproven but geologically possible energy resources which may be exploitable in future) are included.
Where possible, LINGO has relied on publicly accessible authoritative data sources. For oil and gas data, the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) domestic and international maps of deposits, along with the Peace Research Institute of Oslo’s “Petrodata”, were used for area-based calculations. Coal data was carefully collected and combined by the Leave it in the Ground Initiative, utilising diverse sources, including the European Commission, USGS, national academic institutes, and even declassified CIA reports (for North Korea).
Oil and gas extraction information was calculated from a subset of Rystad Energy’s “U Cube” upstream asset database, clipped to include only details inside protected areas as part of a data partnership with Oil Change International. Coal extraction data was sourced from the Global Energy Monitor’s Global Coal Mine dataset. Like the oil and gas extraction data, information was clipped to include only protected areas.
A comprehensive map of the world’s government-protected natural areas was sourced from Protected Planet’s World Database of Protected Areas. This dataset was used to define the boundaries of protected areas and calculate area-based statistics.
Creating national summaries required an authoritative source of land and marine borders. The Flanders Marine Institute’s “union” shape file was used to normalise differing borders and establish sovereignty over protected areas and fossil fuel deposits.
Area-based calculations began by creating polygon sets representing overlapping areas between coal/oil/gas deposits and protected areas. Both the original deposit polygons and these “overlapping deposits” polygons were further processed in a six-step workflow: (1) Polygons of the same type (oil/gas or coal) were merged using ArcGIS’s “dissolve” geo-processing tool to avoid double counting areas. (2) Transnational deposits were split at national borders using the Flanders Institute’s map of national borders and economic exclusive zones. This normalised border lines across different sources and ensured that each country’s statistics only included deposits within their borders. (3) Each resulting polygon’s area in square kilometres was calculated and appended to the polygon’s attribute data. (4) ISO three-letter country codes were added to each polygon’s attribute table to identify which country they are located in. (5) Country stats were summarised by summing the area attribute values for all the polygons with the same country code. (6) Each country’s coal and oil/gas deposits under protected areas were calculated as a percentage of the national total coal and oil/gas area. These percentages were then used as factors for BGR’s energy statistics to estimate the amount of each fossil fuel under protected areas.
Processing of current and planned extraction data from Rystad Energy (oil and gas) and Global Energy Monitor (coal) started with clipping the respective data sets to include only protected areas. Duplicate, abandoned, cancelled, and spurious assets were removed utilising OpenRefine before summing values for each three-letter ISO country code, creating the final per-country statistics.
All processing was performed with ArcGIS Pro Advanced. Microsoft Excel was used to prepare spreadsheets and collate data.
Using LINGO’s “Keep it in the Ground” (KING) conversion metrics, equivalent potential carbon dioxide emissions have been provided.
The resultant spreadsheets have been enhanced to provide equivalent CO2 values, further summaries, and easy-to-read formatting. This same data was re-imported into ArcGIS Pro Advanced and used to create the data package for a publicly available map with interactive elements. This map was developed in cooperation with FracTracker Alliance using the ArcGIS Online toolset.
Developing a global-scale model has involved accepting several deficiencies in the source material gathered from various government and academic sources. Differences in source methodologies, definitions of what counts as a legitimate deposit, and funding and technical resources can create discrepancies in data between countries or regions.
This effect may be especially pronounced in the coal deposits area dataset, for which sources range from official high-resolution geospatial data from government bureaus to hand-digitized scans of de-classified printed intelligence reports. Coal data for the European Union included some point, rather than polygonal, data which was expanded into polygon form by adding a 25-kilometre buffer around each point.
Oil and gas data from the United States Geological Survey is limited to conventionally recoverable deposits. This dataset is the product of many separate assessments and is very conservative in labelling areas containing oil and gas deposits. Notable missing regions occur within the Southeastern cape of South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo along with neighbouring areas, Central and Eastern Europe, the Australian interior, and Brazil. Statistics for South Sudan’s oil and gas are not listed separately from Sudan. As better data becomes available, LINGO will prioritise updating these regions.
Extraction projects in protected areas are tracked using Rystad Energy (for oil and gas) and Global Energy Monitor (for coal) data. Each organisation collected data from diverse sources: including local governments, industry news, and proprietary data. Along with different methodologies, each originating source may have reasons to inflate recoverable resources (boosted company valuations, attracting investment to an area) or to under-report, or not report, the importance of an asset (avoiding scrutiny). Global Energy Monitor provides limited coverage of coal mines producing less than 1 million tons per year. Similarly, Rystad does not track many small oil and gas assets that do not participate in international markets. Therefore, many extraction projects, otherwise impacting protected areas, are not included in the source data used to derive this study’s statistics.
Fossil fuel-bearing areas were overlaid with a map of legally protected areas of conservation, introducing other shortcomings to consider. Sites of other effective conservation measures (OECM) are excluded from consideration since the power to stop or prevent fossil fuel extraction is not clearly delineated to government bodies. This source is rapidly refining- constant improvements to the protected area dataset are published monthly, yet this project relies on a July 2022 snapshot (when data was processed).
In computing estimates of fossil fuel deposits under protected areas, national resource and reserve data from the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe) were used. Inconsistencies and errors in their dataset may be evident and amplified. Natural gas values have been converted to BOE (barrels of oil equivalent) using BP’s conversion factors.
Due to these shortcomings, one must consider the estimates produced by this project to be minimum values. LINGO will revise values as better datasets become available.
Data were processed using methods that may generate edge-case or localised irregularities to create a global yet consistent output product. Area-based calculations determined the percentage of fossil fuel deposits under protected areas. This method assumes equal distribution of deposits. Due to each dataset’s slightly differing national borders, polygons were split, creating occasional “slivers” of protected areas and deposits in the wrong country.
Developing a public resource involves creating easy-to-understand statistics, visual products, and written material. This goal has necessitated simplifying the values presented. Actions taken include reducing decimal precision to avoid long numbers, making assumptions of what data categories are pertinent to the audience, and removing proprietary data not licensed for public distribution. A high degree of manual work was involved in calculating and formatting final outputs, introducing an avenue for human-caused errors, despite LINGO’s peer-proofing workflow.
This global project was only possible with a worldwide support network. The author and team wish to thank the German Postcode Lottery’s grant funding. Technical and data partners include Nordend, FracTracker Alliance, and Oil Change International. The Middlebury Institute of International Studies provided software and support for much of the initial geospatial analysis. The author would like to gratefully acknowledge the support of her husband and family during the development of this project.
Without quality data, created by a global community of professionals, this project would not have been possible. The author and team acknowledge the combined efforts of the European Commission, US Geological Survey, Global Energy Monitor, Rystad Energy, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, plus other government and academic organisations and the thousands of researchers they represent.
Links to Data
The website “protected-carbon.org” contains supporting data, case studies, and an interactive world map for users to explore.
Explore and extend our global GIS data using your own mapping software. Available as shapefile. Latest updates: October 2023.
- Extraction Projects in Protected Areas