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Kansas Geological Survey, Public Information Circular (PIC) 5
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Future of the Hugoton Gas Area

Published information on the Hugoton area is rare considering its geographic size, the amounts of gas and oil produced, and the revenues generated. Despite the Hugoton's long history of production, no comprehensive study has guided how best to explore, produce, and regulate gas and oil in the Hugoton area. Relatively little is known of the basic architecture of the reservoirs or the fundamental geologic controls on the migration, trapping, and production of gas and oil.

For years, geologists thought the reservoirs that produced gas from the giant fields were relatively continuous, or homogeneous. Modern studies now show the rocks can contain barriers restricting the flow of gas both vertically and horizontally, causing many of the reservoirs to be isolated into individual compartments. Understanding how the reservoir is divided is important for efficient recovery of gas and oil. The ultimate goal is to drill the minimum number of wells that will recover the maximum amount of available gas or oil.

The urgency for policy based on strong scientific knowledge is highlighted by declining trends in reservoir pressure. Reservoir pressures that are higher than the surface pressure force gas to the surface, much like letting air out of a balloon. Because of development, the average reservoir pressure in the Hugoton area has declined from over 400 pounds per square inch (psi) to under 100 psi today. At the current rate of decline (fig. 6), pressures will soon approach their economic limit--that is, the cost of bringing the gas to the surface will exceed the value of the gas. As reservoir pressures continue to decline, intelligent energy policies and new technologies must be developed to assure continued production.

Figure 6--Declines in reservoir pressure in the Hugoton natural gas area (BCF = billion cubic feet of gas) (modified form David Williams, Kansas Corporation Commission).

Pressure declined from over 400 psi to under 100 psi

Knowledge and a technical base are required for intelligent stewardship, generation of new opportunities, and continued improvement in recovery strategies. A better understanding of the Hugoton area would allow more efficient exploitation of this resource. State policy-makers, operators, regulators, and mineral owners need accurate information to make informed decisions about regulations, drilling and production programs (for example, infill drilling and drilling of deeper horizons), and how to recover the most gas and oil from the Hugoton area. The Kansas Geological Survey is proposing a comprehensive study that will provide the geological information that is needed for intelligent decision-making.

The Hugoton area in Kansas contains an estimated 10 to 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Even a small increase in annual and ultimate production of gas and oil from the Kansas portion of the Hugoton area will result in many millions of dollars of economic activity and tax revenues. Savings from more efficient production practices and access to smaller, currently unknown reservoirs could extend the field's life. Both the public and private sectors will benefit from efficient and increased production of oil and gas from the Hugoton area.

Kansans should be aware that the oil and gas resources of the state require continuous stewardship. Just as we manage our valuable ground--water resources, we must protect and manage the Hugoton natural gas area. Periodic review of energy policies and development of new technologies must continue in order to maintain the environment for conscientious and beneficial exploration, development, and production.


Furbush, M. A., 1959, Hugoton field, Kansas: Kansas Geological Society, Kansas oil and gas fields, vol. 2, Western Kansas, p. 55-64.

Hinton, C. H., 1952, The story of the Hugoton natural gas field: Kansas Geological Survey, Open-file Report 52-1, 13 p.

Parham, K. D., and Campbell, J. A., 1993, PM-8. Wolfcampian shallow-shelf carbonate-Hugoton embayment, Kansas and Oklahoma; in, Atlas of Major Midcontinent Gas Reservoirs, D. G. Bebout, W. A. White, T. F. Hentz, and M. K. Grasmick, eds.: Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, 85 p.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Public Outreach
Web version Dec. 1996