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Kansas Geological Survey, Current Research in Earth Sciences, Bulletin 250, part 1
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As Kansas oil and gas production declines (Carr, 2002) and consumer demand rises, Kansas has shifted from a net energy exporter to a net energy importer. The oil and natural gas exploration and production industry of Kansas is in decline, and as national energy demands increase, Kansas (still the number-eight producing state in the nation) exemplifies the national production-decline problem. The result of decreasing production is increasing imports, increasing foreign ownership of U. S. assets and means of production, and increased cost of military protection of external supply lines.

Kansas is a mature producing area of the midcontinent. It has undergone several exploration cycles. There are fewer remaining accumulations of oil and gas to find. But petroleum explorationists must be optimists, or there would never be any discoveries. The Crude Oil Potential Committee of the Kansas Geological Survey predicted in 1994 that there were as many as 2.2 billion barrels of oil yet to be discovered in Kansas, in addition to proved reserves at the time of about 300 million barrels (Collins et al., 1994; Gerhard et al., 1992). Certainly some additional production will be developed by new recovery techniques and infield and extension drilling. But where are those undiscovered barrels of oil?

Exploring for petroleum requires constant changes in concepts, in new paradigms. Successful exploration and new development arises from the application of new interpretations of old data, acquisition of new data, and viewing of data in ways not before attempted. Discovery of new plays requires something else: salesmanship of a new concept to management who may view new ideas as difficulties rather than opportunities.

Because Kansas is widely regarded as a mature petroleum province, it is often considered as having been so thoroughly explored and developed that all potential significant pools of petroleum have been found. The exploration experience of this writer has been that although really giant discoveries are rare in old, mature basins, new plays are often successful when old paradigms are discarded and replaced by different ideas. Assumptions of knowledge, things that "everyone knows," are the most stultifying to new ideas. Therefore, this writer has approached the petroleum potential of Kansas without constraints, as if to explore Kansas for the first time.

This approach has precedent. Most petroleum basins or provinces undergo cycles of exploration and development, some driven by technology, others by fortuitous discoveries, and still others through conceptual breakthroughs. In the Williston basin, several new development cycles were established by discovery of new types of traps, but the last several cycles were driven respectively by a fortuitous discovery (Red Wing Creek bolide), economic stimulus (expiring large lease blocks), and new concepts (new structural styles, reservoir studies, and evolution of the basin) (Gerhard and Anderson, 1979, 1988; Gerhard et al., 1982; Gerhard et al., 1991). In turn, without the advent of computer technology, much of the new interpretation could not have been accomplished.

For Kansas, this paper views stratigraphic development in terms of sedimentary sequences without regard to standard geologic time scales. It argues that reservoir development is a function of sedimentary and diagenetic environments, in part controlled by brittle rupture of the Precambrian crust, and that these ancient structural discontinuities may be discerned by examination of present-day topography, drainage, and potential fields (magnetic and gravity).

It attempts to identify the fundamental controls on existing petroleum production in order to better predict where similar constraints and opportunities exist. The goal is to provide to Kansas a conceptual framework for re-exploration and new development of the Kansas petroleum resource.

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Kansas Geological Survey
Web version Sept. 15, 2004