News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, Nov. 28, 1994
The four-year project is a cooperative effort between researchers at KU and Ritchie Exploration Inc., an independent Kansas oil and gas operator headquartered in Wichita. The grant was made through KU's Energy Research Center to the Kansas Geological Survey and the KU Tertiary Oil Recovery Project.
According to Timothy Carr, chief of the Survey's petroleum research section, the grant is aimed at demonstrating new approaches and technology to extend production from the mature oil fields of Kansas.
"Without new techniques for producing additional oil, many of the state's 6000 oil fields might become uneconomic and be abandoned within the next five years," said Carr.
The study will focus on the Schaben field in Ness County in west-central Kansas. The Schaben was discovered in 1963, and has produced more than 8.2 million barrels of oil since then.
The KU geologists and engineers, in cooperation with Ritchie Exploration, plan to use new techniques to acquire data from the reservoir. This new data will be added to the existing data to build a computerized model of the geology of the field and its oil-producing formations. That model will help scientists better estimate the remaining reserves, and simulate future production based on different scenarios, such as increased drilling, or different oil-recovery technologies.
Researchers plan to evaluate the efficiency of various advanced oil-recovery techniques--including targeted infill drilling, deepening of existing wells, and other techniques. These methods have a significant potential for increased production at the Schaben field and at similar fields throughout the state.
"With conventional recovery practices, older Kansas fields are playing out," said Carr. "As the major oil companies become less active in Kansas, smaller independent producers become more and more important. These producers need assistance in developing new geologic information and new, low-cost technologies they can use to get a few more barrels of oil a day out of marginal wells to keep them producing a lot longer."
Ninety-two percent of the oil wells operating in Kansas are stripper wells--those producing an average of less than 10 barrels of oil per day. In 1987, there were 52,000 stripper wells in Kansas producing about 160,000 barrels of oil per day. By 1993, there were 45,000 stripper wells producing about 65,000 of oil.
When the cost of lifting additional oil from the well is greater than the value of the oil produced, the wells are plugged, even though small amounts of oil remain underground. That additional oil is lost, however, once the well is abandoned.
"The Schaben field study will be used to demonstrate the economic viability of applying similar advanced oil-recovery techniques to other Kansas reservoirs," said Carr. "Sixty percent of the oil produced in Kansas comes from formations very similar to these. Improved production here will have applicability across the state."