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Kansas and fracking

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This article is part of the FrackSwarm portal on SourceWatch, a project of CoalSwarm and the Center for Media and Democracy. To search by topic or location, click here.

This article is part of the FrackSwarm coverage of fracking.
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Introduction

According to the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates oil and gas in the state, fracking takes place in Kansas on vertical wells, on coalbed methane wells in southeast Kansas, on Niobrara Chalk Wells in northwest Kansas, and on horizontal wells.[1]

Most of the new fracking takes place on the horizontal wells in the Mississippian Lime Play (MLP), a porous limestone formation found under parts of southern and western Kansas.[2]

In 2012 total crude output in the state stood at 43.6 million barrels, and official estimates project that Kansas oil production will grow by about 5 percent annually. In October 2013 E&E reported that "Kansas has seen more than $1 billion in oil and gas investment over the past several years" in fracking for tight oil, but "initial production in the state's Mississippi Lime formation has fallen short of expectations, and companies such as Shell Oil Co. and Tug Hill Operating have stopped drilling or ditched assets in Kansas."[3]

History

Kansas was the site of the country’s first vertical fracking in 1947. According to president of the Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association Ed Cross, more than 57,000 vertical wells have been fracked in Kansas from 1947 to mid-2012.[4]

The first horizontal drills were installed in Kansas in 2009. Interest centers on the Mississippian Lime Play (MLP), a porous limestone formation found under parts of southern and western Kansas as well as across the boundary in northern Oklahoma. The Mississippian Lime has already been the site of more than 1 billion barrels of oil in the state since 1915 from conventional wells, but was considered largely tapped out. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have kindled industry hopes of a new oil rush.[2]

In 2012 over 140 horizontal wells were drilled in the state, up from 50 in 2011 and 10 in 2010. Unconventional oil and gas production amounted to only 10,000 barrels of oil-equivalent at the end of 2012, or 3.8 percent of the state total, but exploration companies say they are still trying to scope out the play and identify "sweet spots." Early exploration was directed towards natural gas, but steadily decreasing gas prices has switched the focus to finding oil.[2]

Drilling wells

Click here for a list of horizontal wells from the Kansas Oil & Gas Conservation Division.

Over 140 horizontal wells were drilled in the state in 2012, up from 50 in 2011 and 10 in 2010. Most wells have been drilled in three counties along the Oklahoma border (Harper, Barber and Comanche) though wildcats have been sunk in another nine and the Play underlies parts of 34 counties in total.[2]

Citizen activism

Water

Water permits have soared to the highest level in 30 years in Kansas, due to increased demand from fracking operations. Many of the Kansas oil boomtown counties are under "drought watch"; water levels in the High Plains aquifer system, which supplies water for about 86% of the state's irrigation permits, have been declining for 14 straight years. The water used for fracking amounts to less than 1% of the state's overall use (as of 2012), but environmentalists point out that that water is lost to the hydrologic cycle forever, because it is too dirty to be reused for anything but disposal or recycling for further drilling.[5]

Earthquakes

Southern Kansas has had an increase in the number of small earthquakes: since 2011, 13 earthquakes had been recorded across three counties by December 2013, according to the Kansas Geological Survey. The uptick has coincided with more oil and gas activity in the area. KGS geologist Lynn Watney told E&E that a connection is not yet clear and there needs to be more monitoring of seismic activity near drilling sites.[6]

A magnitude-3.8 earthquake hit Caldwell, Kansas, on December 18, 2013.[6]

Legislative issues and regulations

List of regulations in the state.

On March 6, 2012, the Senate Utilities Committee (SUC) debated a bill that would give the Kansas Corporation Commission explicit authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing of natural gas. Tom Day, the KCC’s legislative liaison, said the KCC has long had the authority to regulate the state's oil and gas industry in a broad sense, but a succession of attorneys general have determined that the agency oversteps its bounds when it attempts to write rules specific to fracking, making the creation of rules through the Legislature specifically regarding fracking necessary to clarify KCC's authority and adequately oversee the process. Sen. Pat Apple (R) and chairman of the SUC suggested that fracking is too unwieldy to keep up with changes in technology, and therefore the KCC would be better suited to regulate it than the Legislature.

Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association president Edward Cross testified in favor of the bill, saying he would prefer state regulation rather than the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which he described as "overly political": "From the industry standpoint we like this because it pushes back against the EPA to say we don't think we need federal regulation because we have something in Kansas." Cross provided written testimony saying that fracking poses no threat to drinking water.

Citizens have argued for state and federal regulation, citing personal evidence of contamination and a study by Duke University, which found methane contamination of drinking water associated with shale gas extraction, and Cornell University, which estimated that as much as 8 percent of the methane in shale gas leaks out into the air during the lifetime of a hydraulic shale gas well, making it a higher greenhouse gas emitter than conventional gas, oil, or even coal.[7]

Citizen groups

Industry groups

Reports

Resources

References

  1. "Hydraulic Fracturing: Joint Committee on Energy and Environmental Policy," Kansas Corporation Commission, Sep 9, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 John Kemp, "Dreaming of Bakken, Kansas welcomes oil drillers," Reuters, Jan 08, 2013.
  3. "Low output stifles drillers' hopes in Kan. play," E&E, October 24, 2013.
  4. Blake Ellis, "Water grab in Kansas oil boom," @CNNMoney, June 12, 2012.
  5. Blake Ellis, "Water grab in Kansas oil boom," @CNNMoney, June 12, 2012.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Temblors rack small town near Kan. drilling sites," E&E, December 18, 2013
  7. Andy Marso, "Broad support for KCC to regulate fracking," The Topeka Capital-Journal, March 6, 2012.

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