News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, June 16, 2008
LAWRENCE--A relatively new method of recovering methane from underground coal beds helped elevate production in southeastern Kansas and boosted Wilson County into the state's top 10 list of gas-producing counties.
Wilson County, which ranked 11th in gas production in 2006, rose to eighth place in 2007 and onto a list of top producers previously comprised only of southwestern counties located in the expansive Hugoton Gas Area. The new method of recovering methane helped elevate production in Wilson and surrounding counties.
"Wilson County is a shining light as far as future energy production in the state goes," said Lynn Watney, a geologist at the Kansas Geological Survey, based at the University of Kansas. "Finding alternative gas resources is a good boost for Kansas."
Oil production in the state rose slightly in 2007. The top 10 oil-producing counties were: Ellis County, 3.1 million barrels; Rooks, Russell and Barton, nearly 2 million barrels each; Ness, Haskell, Graham, Finney, Stafford and Butler.
All were on the list in 2006.
Total oil production for the state in 2007 was 36.6 million barrels, up from 35.7 million barrels in 2006. Nearly 48 percent of that was from the top 10 counties. The total value of the 2007 production was $2.34 billion, up $140 million over 2006 and $540 million over 2005.
In response to increases in the price of oil, producers are reworking wells, applying technologies to recover oil that was previously not economical to pump and using three-dimensional seismic techniques to find and develop new fields.
"We've had a turn around going on since 2000 that's reflected in increased activity," Watney said. "In 1999 oil was $9 a barrel."
Total gas production in Kansas for 2007 was 371 billion cubic feet, down from 375 billion cubic feet in 2006. Seventy-six percent of the 2007 production came from the top 10 counties. The total value of the state's gas production in 2007 was $2.3 billion, down about $100 million from 2006.
The Hugoton Gas Area, the most widespread gas area in the Western Hemisphere, still dominated production in Kansas despite recent declines following decades of drilling. The Hugoton and Pomona fields in western Kansas remained the top two fields in 2007, producing 166.3 billion cubic feet and 45.7 billion cubic feet respectively.
Stevens and Grant counties topped the list of gas-producing counties, with 63.2 billion cubic feet and 40.4 billion cubic feet respectively. The rest in the top 10 were Kearny, Haskell, Seward, Finney, Morton, Wilson, Barber and Stanton.
In southeastern Kansas, production of coalbed methane in the Cherokee Basin Coal Area rose in Wilson and nearby counties. Montgomery County moved up the list of Kansas gas-producing counties two places to 11th, and Neosho rose two to 12th. The Cherokee Basin ranked third among gas fields in the state, producing 33.5 billion cubic feet of gas, including 15.3 billion cubic feet from Wilson County.
"The question now is how far north can methane coal be developed in Kansas since data indicate that the coals are thinner and gas content decreases in that direction," Watney said.
Once considered a menace because it could cause explosions in underground mines, coalbed methane has been captured and sold since the 1980s and has become more economical to produce as energy prices rise.
The wellhead price of natural gas, which has fluctuated but generally increased since the 1970s, was $6.53 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) in December of 2007 and $9 per mcf in April 2008. In January 1976 it was 54 cents per mcf. The wellhead price is the value at the mouth of the well.
Rising prices have also affected activity in the Hugoton Gas Area.
"The area is now going through an enhanced recovery phase as a consortium of companies are working to target and recover the remaining gas," Watney said. "As energy prices rise, recovering the less accessible gas becomes more profitable."
More information on oil and gas production in Kansas is available at http://www.kgs.ku.edu/PRS/petroDB.html.