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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Nov. 23, 2010

Kansas Geological Researchers Search for Trapped Oil in Central Kansas

LAWRENCE--Kansas Geological Survey researchers at the University of Kansas and industry partners will be drilling a horizontal well in a central Kansas oil field to determine if the field holds significant quantities of oil not found through traditional methods.

Drilling is expected to begin in early December and should take about two weeks. The project is partly funded by the nonprofit consortium Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA).

The Unger Field in Marion County has produced 8.6 million barrels of oil since its discovery in 1955, but production has declined in recent years. Working with its industry partner Wichita-based American Energies Corporation, the Survey is searching for pockets of remaining oil missed through initial field development using vertical wells.

"Based on rough estimates of initial reserves, at least 60% of the initial reserves may remain unproduced in this reservoir," said Survey geologist Lynn Watney. "Variable production in some of the existing wells suggests that this carbonate reservoir is compartmentalized and that pockets of oil likely remain untapped or under produced."

Horizontal drilling is a relatively new concept in Kansas. The borehole will be drilled vertically for about 2100 feet then veer off gradually as a horizontal lateral trajectory into the Hunton dolomite, a known oil-producing layer, where the researchers hope to encounter oil trapped in undrained compartments.

Using modern logging and geosteering tools, the researchers will obtain data about the nature of the rocks surrounding the drill bit that will help them maneuver the lateral borehole about 1700 feet through the portion of the reservoir where the remaining oil is expected to reside. Logging tools will then be pushed through the lateral to record porosity and water saturation so that the researchers can estimate the amount and location of remaining oil. If sufficient reserves are found, a downhole pump will be installed to produce the oil.

"Besides aiding drilling and completion, these tools will help refine the existing reservoir geomodel for the field and enable simulation studies to predict recovery from the newly drilled well and assess other opportunities to develop remaining oil from the field," said Survey petroleum engineer Saibal Bhattacharya. "Lessons learned from this project will be shared with the Kansas oil and gas producers through technology transfer workshops."

Other industry participants in the project include TRES Management, Pan American Drilling Services, C&G Drilling, Mud-Co, Consolidated Oilwell Services, Weatherford Logging Services, Patterson Rental Tool, and Pason Systems.

"We hope that success in this project will encourage new drilling to reinvigorate other mature oil fields in Kansas," Watney said.

Funding for the project is provided through the "Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Research and Development Program" authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. RPSEA, a consortium of research institutions, energy producers and energy consumers, is under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory to administer several elements of the program.

Story by Cathy Evans, (785) 864-2195.
For more information, contact Lynn Watney, (785) 864-2184.

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach