Moore Hall in Lawrence

About the Kansas Geological Survey

The Kansas Geological Survey (KGS), a research and service division of the University of Kansas, is charged by statute with studying and providing information on the state's geologic resources. The KGS has no regulatory authority and does not take positions on natural resource issues.

Research at the KGS focuses primarily on energy, water, and the environment and addresses natural resource challenges facing the state of Kansas. The KGS also generates new information about the state's geology and develops tools and techniques for studying the state's surface and subsurface through its geophysics and mapping programs. Primary users of this information include local, State, and Federal agencies; oil and gas exploration companies; engineering companies and geotechnical consultants dealing with construction, environmental, and geologic hazard issues; educators; and private citizens wanting to learn more about the state's geology and resources.

The KGS is located in Lawrence on the west campus of the University of Kansas and has a Well Sample Library in Wichita. With a staff of 74 full-time employees and about 30 student employees, the KGS has an annual state-appropriated budget of approximately $5.9 million. Another $11.7 million in grants and contracts was awarded in fiscal year 2012. The KGS reports to the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies at the University of Kansas and has a 12-member advisory council to provide review and guidance.

The Interim Director of the Kansas Geological Survey is Rex Buchanan.

Energy

The KGS, with industry and government partners, continues a multi-year project to test the safety and efficacy of storing carbon dioxide (CO2)--from industrial processes and other sources--deep underground and also using it to squeeze out trapped oil unreachable by traditional recovery methods. CO2 is a natural and essential component of the atmosphere, but it is also a greenhouse gas--a byproduct of fossil fuels emissions from vehicles and such stationary sources as electric, cement, ethanol, and fertilizer plants--that has been considered a cause of climate change. The KGS-led project has received to date nearly $21.5 million in cooperative agreement funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. This funding has helped support drilling and evaluation of wells in Sumner County south of Wichita, Ellis County north of Hays, and Haskell County northwest of Liberal. The cooperative agreement is the largest ever received by the KGS.

Following a robust characterization of the reservoir, CO2 will be transported from nearby sources and injected at the KGS Wellington field site in Sumner County for both enhanced oil recovery and CO2 sequestration in the deep Arbuckle saline aquifer. The Arbuckle is a porous rock group that contains saline water unfit for human consumption in that area of the state and is separated from shallower freshwater aquifers by thousands of feet of impermeable rock. This will be the first time CO2 emitted during industrial activities will be captured and injected underground for long-term storage in Kansas. Sequestration of CO2 in saline aquifers is being tested throughout the United States, with a larger test currently underway in Illinois.

In response to demand for information on horizontal wells and hydraulic fracturing following increased public awareness and acceleration of horizontal drilling in the Mississippian play in south-central Kansas, the KGS published a circular on hydraulic fracturing in Kansas. The KGS also studies coalbed methane (CBM) and other unconventional sources of natural gas. With funding from the Kansas Corporation Commission and the Kansas Department of Revenue, the KGS continues development of online methods for reporting oil and gas information to the state of Kansas and from the Kansas Geological Society to develop software for the display of digital well logs.

The KGS provides a variety of information related to oil and gas production through the KGS website, the Data Resources Library and Drill Core Library in Lawrence, and the Wichita Well Sample Library, which collects, archives, and loans cuttings samples from more than 130,000 wells drilled in Kansas. Data on Kansas oil and gas production are available through the KGS interactive oil and gas field map. In support of the CO2 sequestration and enhanced oil recovery project, the Data Resources Library added a large quantity of new oil and gas records and data to its online database, and the Drill Core Library added important new collections to its inventory.

Water

The newly compiled KGS "High Plains Aquifer Atlas" is now online. It features more than 70 maps--several animated or interactive. One provides real-time data from wells continuously monitored by the KGS and another allows users to watch the progressive change in water levels since 1996. The High Plains aquifer, a massive network of water-bearing formations that underlies parts of eight states, includes the extensive Ogallala aquifer and is the primary source of municipal, industrial, and irrigation water for much of western and central Kansas. Declines in the High Plains aquifer of western Kansas continue to dominate much of the KGS work on water.

To monitor the condition of the High Plains aquifer, the KGS and the Division of Water Resources (DWR) of the Kansas Department of Agriculture measure groundwater levels, with landowner permission, in about 1,400 wells in 47 western and central Kansas counties every January. The results are available online. The KGS also provides a Kansas Master Groundwater Well Inventory (MWI)--a central repository that imports and links together the state's primary groundwater well data sets--and continuously monitors and collects data from three western Kansas wells as part of its index-well program. The KGS releases the real-time data from the index wells through the High Plains Aquifer Atlas.

The KGS recently completed a modeling study of the High Plains aquifer in southwestern Kansas for the area in GMD 3, one of the state's five Groundwater Management Districts. The model is used by Kansas water agencies to assess the impact of pumping reductions on groundwater availability in that portion of the aquifer. The U.S. Department of Energy is funding another KGS project on the integrated use of surface and subsurface nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) for measuring and mapping saturated hydraulic conductivity in three dimensions. The U.S. Geological Survey helped fund a KGS study on aquifer storage and recovery in near-surface aquifers through the development of a new recharge approach using small-diameter low-cost wells. The KGS also continues work with Michigan State University and others as part of an NSF-funded study to model the entire High Plains aquifer.

A range of water-level and water-well information is available through the KGS website and the Data Resources Library in Lawrence. Inquiries for these data have increased due to ongoing drought conditions in the state and concerns over water-level declines in the High Plains aquifer. With KGS support, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment released a program that allows online submission of digital water-well drilling records.

Geology

The KGS continues to update and create new county geologic maps, supported, in large part, by the U.S. Geological Survey STATEMAP project. New geologic maps are now available for Saline County in central Kansas and Kearny County in the southwest.

A detailed KGS study underway of the stratigraphic architecture of the High Plains aquifer is being funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). In particular, the KGS used sonic drilling capabilities to recover unconsolidated core from the Ogallala Formation in Haskell County.

KGS geoarcheological studies include field investigations, funded by KU's endowed Odyssey Archaeological Research Program, at the northwest Kansas Kanorado Locality, the northeast Kansas Coffey site, and other locations thought to harbor pre-Clovis cultural deposits that may date to more than 11,500 before present. Geoarcheology encompasses the investigation and interpretation of sediments, soils, and landforms to help identify areas of potential cultural deposits, date finds, and assess prehistoric environments.

Other KGS research projects in the geology section focus on Cretaceous and Neogene stratigraphy and paleoclimatology of the Great Plains.

Geophysics

The KGS seismic-reflection program addresses engineering and subsidence issues in Kansas and elsewhere. Using seismic reflection techniques, KGS researchers create a vibration--with an explosion or specially equipped truck--that sends seismic (sound) waves into the ground. The rebounding energy, which reflects off different rocks in different ways, is then measured to produce images of underground rock layers.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded the KGS a grant to advance the research and development of an automated subterrain anomaly-detection system using active seismic-imaging (ASI) technologies to be used for clandestine tunnel detection, classification, and evaluation. The KGS also received Corps funding for a study of unconsolidated sediments on the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona; U.S. Department of Interior and Bureau of Reclamation funding for a seismic study at A.V. Watkins Dam in Utah; and U.S. Geological Survey funding to study geophysical-methods development for subsurface characterization of near-surface settings.

Publications, Education, and Information Dissemination

The KGS produces printed and online publications and other resources, both technical and educational, about KGS research and the state's geology and natural resources. Two new public information circulars, one on hydraulic fracturing in Kansas and another on geothermal resources in Kansas, are now available online and in print.

Recent technical KGS bulletins, published online under Current Research in Earth Sciences, include a work on fusulinids from the Howe Limestone Member in northeastern Kansas by Gregory P. Wahlman and Ronald R. West and another on sequence stratigraphic architecture of the Dakota Formation in Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa by Greg A. Ludvigson et al. The KGS also published an online technical series report, Mineralogical and chemical evolution of lamproites in southeastern Kansas by Robert L. Cullers and Pieter Berendsen.

GeoKansas on the KGS website features online educational information on the rocks, minerals, fossils, and other natural resources in Kansas as well as the location of scenic and geologic places of interest throughout the state. The KGS online photo library provides hundreds of county-by-county photographs of the state's natural resources.

The KGS Data Access and Support Center (DASC)--located at the KGS and operating under the direction of the Kansas GIS Policy Board and Kansas GIS Director--serves as the geospatial data clearinghouse for the state of Kansas. DASC works with KGS geologists, and the DASC database includes Kansas GIS data on water, energy, and environmental resources. House Bill 2175, passed by the legislature in 2012, directs continued funding to DASC through the KGS. While DASC has been located at the KGS since its inception in 1989, this bill is the first statutory recognition of DASC and its location at the KGS.

The KGS conducts an annual Kansas Field Conference, undertaken since 1995, to provide State legislators, State agency staff, local government officials, business people, and other decision-makers an opportunity to visit different parts of the state and learn about natural resources. The 2012 trip to northwest Kansas included a look at groundwater management and agriculture, oil exploration and development in the Mississippian play, and geoarchaeology at Paleoindian sites. Co-sponsors included the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism; Kansas Water Office; and Kansas Department of Transportation. Kansas Field Conference guidebooks are available online.

Honors/Milestones

In 2011 and 2012, the following KGS staff members received recognition for their outstanding contributions in their fields of study:

  • Rick Miller, KGS geophysicist and senior scientists, was named honorary lecturer for 2012 by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists and will present 25 lectures in 11 countries about his research on non-invasive, high-resolution seismic methods to explore the shallow subsurface. Miller is second vice president of SEG.
  • Evan Franseen, KGS senior scientific fellow, was elected president of the Society of Sedimentary Geology. In February 2012 he started serving a three-year term--first as president-elect, then president, then past president.
  • Jim Butler, KGS groundwater hydrologist and senior scientist, was elected to a second term on the board of directors, Scientists and Engineers Division, National Ground Water Association, He was also named president-elect of the International Commission on Ground Water, International Association of Hydrological Sciences.
  • John Dunham, KGS cartographic services manager, received a Cartography Special Interest Group Award from Esri, a company that provides GIS software and geodatabase-management applications. The award was for the Flint Hills Ecoregion Map.
  • Greg Ludvigson, KGS senior scientist in the Stratigraphic Research Section, was named a Fellow of the Geological Society of America.
  • Bob Buddemeier, KGS emeritus senior scientist, was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.