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News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, April 27, 2015

Kansas Oil Production Up, Natural Gas Production Continued Decline in 2014

LAWRENCE--Oil production in Kansas increased in 2014, boosted mainly by activity in a few south-central and northwestern counties, while natural gas production continued to decline, according to estimates from the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) at the University of Kansas.

Continuing a steady increase that began in 2006, oil production for the whole state rose 5.7% from about 46.8 million barrels in 2013 to 49.5 million barrels in 2014. Natural gas production declined 2.6% from about 295 billion cubic feet (bcf) in 2013 to 287 bcf in 2014. Production and exploration for both oil and gas slowed in the second half of 2014 as prices dropped.

Although oil production was up, the cumulative value of the state's production decreased slightly from an estimated $4.11 billion in 2013 to $4.09 billion in 2014 due to price declines in the latter half of the year. The cumulative value of natural gas rose from about $1.1 billion in 2013 to $1.3 billion in 2014 after the price of natural gas in 2014 peaked at $5.36 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) in February and averaged about $3.92 per mcf, up slightly over the year before.

Ellis County continued to be the top oil producer in the state even though production there fell about 8% in 2014 to 3.2 million barrels, down from 3.5 million barrels in 2013. Conversely, Harper County jumped from 9th to 2nd highest producer in 2014 as production there rose 69% from about 1.7 million barrels in 2013 to 2.9 million barrels in 2014, and 10th-ranked Rawlins County experienced a 97% increase in production.

"The focus of drilling in the Mississippian limestone play in south-central Kansas shifted east to Harper County from neighboring Barber County," said KGS geologist Lynn Watney.

Starting in 2010, much of the increased oil production in the state has been from the Mississippian limestone play, colloquially known as the "Mississippi Lime," in south-central and southwest Kansas, especially Barber and Harper counties. Most of the activity over the last five years in the play has been horizontal drilling with multistage hydraulic fracturing, popularly known as fracking.

Activity in the Mississippian play also increased just east of Harper County in 21st-ranked Sumner County, where total production rose 42% to about 1.26 million barrels. Barber County, which produced about 2 million barrels, fell from 2nd highest producer in 2013 to 4th highest in 2014.

As oil prices declined from a high around $100 per barrel in June to a low just under $60 in December, exploration and production started to decline in the Mississippian play as well as in most of the rest of the state. So far in 2015, prices have remained fairly steady around $52 per barrel.

"Intents-to-drill for 38 horizontal wells in the Mississippian play were issued in October, but only 7 were issued in February 2015," said KGS geologist Dave Newell. "The number of both horizontal and vertical wells targeting the play has dropped, approximately in proportion to the total number of intents-to-drill for all wells."

After Ellis and Harper counties, the top-ten producing counties in 2014, in order, were Barton, Barber, Russell, Finney, Ness, Rooks, Haskell, and Rawlins. Oil production was reported in 91 of the state's 105 counties and about 44% was from the top ten.

Rawlins County in northwest Kansas jumped dramatically to 10th highest producer from 22nd in 2013 and 56th in 2012. Production there, which is mainly from the Pennsylvanian-age Lansing-Kansas City Group, was up to about 1.4 million barrels from 738,000 barrels in 2013.

"The nature of the reservoirs there and probable fracture trends that help charge them with oil continue to afford opportunities to find new oil," Watney said. "The underlying Cherokee Group also presents opportunities for exploration in northwest Kansas."

Logan and Scott counties in west central Kansas, which ranked 11th and 14th, respectively, also had significant increases. Oil production rose from about 836,000 barrels in 2013 to 1.36 million barrels in 2014 in Logan County and from about 826,000 barrels to 1.32 million barrels in Scott County.

"The production in Logan County has mostly been from the Lansing Kansas City Group, with a few other discoveries in Mississippian and Cherokee pay zones," Newell said. "The pay zones of most of the new wells in Scott County have not yet been revealed by operators, but the majority of reported pay zones are from the Marmaton, with fewer Lansing-Kansas City and Mississippian discovery pays being reported."

The producing wells in Rawlins, Logan, and Scott counties are vertical, not horizontal.

The expansive Hugoton Gas Area in southwestern Kansas remained the most prolific natural gas region in the state. However, of the eight counties in the top-ten list whose wells produce predominantly from the Hugoton field, only Stanton County showed an increase in production. Total production in the Hugoton Gas Area was about 110 bcf in 2014, down 5% from 2013.

Stevens County continued to lead in gas production, followed by Grant, Barber, Kearny, Harper, Haskell, Finney, Morton, Stanton, and Seward counties. Production in Stevens County dropped 11.2% to 33.8 bcf in 2014. Production in Stanton County rose 5.8% to about 11.9 bcf.Gas production was reported in 54 of the state's 105 counties and about 73% was in the top ten producing counties.

Natural gas in Barber and Harper counties, which are not in the Hugoton Gas Area, was produced mainly from the Mississippian play. As with oil production in the two counties, gas production rose significantly in Harper County and fell slightly in Barber County. Production in Harper County was up about 80% to 24.3 bcf while production in Barber County was down 2.5% to 27.7 bcf.

"Natural gas prices fell during 2014 from above $5 in January to $3 in December," Watney said. "Decreasing production is closely tied to decreasing prices that are resulting from a large supply of natural gas in the United States."

Production in southeastern Kansas, where gas is produced mainly from shallow coal beds, continued to decline.

"Only about a dozen coal bed methane wells were drilled in 2014," Newell said. "At the peak of CBM drilling in 2006, 1,930 were drilled in eastern Kansas, and annual natural gas production there--mostly from the CBM wells--peaked in 2008 at 49.1 bcf. In 2014, production dropped 10.2% from 2013 to 27.8 bcf.

Current and historical production data for the entire state, as well as by county and field, are available at

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

Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach