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Oil-field Areas of Ellis and Russell Counties

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Salt Water Disposal

The production and disposal of oil-field brines in Ellis and Russell counties were studied in detail by J. J. Brazil, then of the Kansas State Board of Health, who planned to include a discussion of the subject in this report. Because of his absence from Kansas on military service, however, this section of the report was not prepared. The data obtained by Brazil are on file in the office of the Kansas State Board of Health at Lawrence.

In general, salt water produced along with the oil in these two counties is disposed of in one of three ways: (1) by so-called evaporation ponds, (2) by shallow disposal wells drilled into the sandstones of Cretaceous age, and (3) by deep disposal wells. drilled into porous rocks of Pennsylvanian age or older. The locations of disposal, wells in the area in 1942 are shown in plate 1. Evaporation ponds are considered safe for the disposal of salt water only in areas where the material forming the sides and floor of the pond is impervious, such as shale; they are unsatisfactory for the disposal of brine where the near-surface materials are pervious and contain fresh water, such as alluvium or Pleistocene terrace deposits, because in such places the salt water percolates downward and laterally into the porous material and contaminates the fresh-water supply. Disposal of salt water by injection into wells drilled into sandstones of Cretaceous age is an adequate method of disposal where these sandstones do not contain fresh water and where they constitute stratigraphic traps so that the salt water cannot migrate into and contaminate other Cretaceous sandstones that contain fresh water. These conditions appear to be satisfied by the Cheyenne sandstone where it underlies this area. Disposal into deeper beds seems to be the best way to safeguard the fresh-water supplies.

The Section of Oil-Field Waste Disposal, Division of Sanitation of the Kansas State Board of Health, is charged with the responsibility of safeguarding the fresh underground-water supplies of the state from contamination by oil-field brines. It has been the policy of that agency to encourage the use of deep disposal wells in the pre-Cretaceous formations. They have approved the Cheyenne sandstone as a disposal horizon, and have discouraged the use of higher sandstones in the Dakota formation and the use of evaporation ponds. During the last few years the advisability of using the Cheyenne sandstone as a disposal horizon has been questioned. The facts presented in this report seem to substantiate their former decisions that disposal by means of properly cased and cemented wells into deeper pre-Cretaceous formations is the best method of safeguarding the fresh-water supplies, and also that the Cheyenne sandstone, which constitutes a stratigraphic trap, is a safe disposal horizon. The sandstones of the overlying Dakota formation have been determined to be in part an interconnecting series of channel and lenticular sandstones, hence brine injected into them would eventually migrate into other beds of sandstone, including those from which fresh-water supplies are obtained.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web Jan. 26, 2017; originally published December 1944.
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