Research Matters

Research Matters

Natural Gas Recovery

Scientists from the Kansas Geological Survey along with industry partners have shown there is more recoverable gas in southwestern Kansas' Hugoton field than was originally thought. The result has been a boom in new investments in the region.

Aired April 19, 2009

2 minutes 3.7 MB) | Download mp3


LAWRENCE - Research has attracted millions of dollars of new investment in a mammoth natural gas field underlying southwestern Kansas. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I'm Brendan Lynch.

The Hugoton natural gas field is the largest in the Western Hemisphere. It exists beneath much of southwestern Kansas and runs south through the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas. Rex Buchanan is deputy director of the Kansas Geological Survey at KU.

"The Hugoton is the 800-pound gorilla of energy production in Kansas. It was discovered in the 1920's and since has made Kansas one of the top ten natural-gas-producing states in the country."

Unfortunately, the giant field has seen a decline in natural gas production in recent years. But in 2007, perceptions of the Hugoton brightened when the geological survey in conjunction with energy companies completed a four-year research project on the gas reservoirs. Buchanan describes the study.

"There was a huge amount of data available for the Hugoton. The problem was that it was scattered in various places. So the idea was to bring along a lot of industry partners, along with the expertise here at the survey, and try and accumulate the massive amount of drilling data into one place, then use that to construct computer models of what the reservoirs look like."

Leaders of the KU study were Tim Carr, Marty Dubois and Alan Byrnes. Dubbed the Hugoton Assessment and Management Project, the study surprised drillers and regulators. The models proved there was more recoverable natural gas in the field than previously thought. The result has been a rush of new investment in the Hugoton, with more than eighty new wells drilled, and upgrades to more than two hundred twenty existing wells.

"It's hard to look at this and not say that it's a good thing in almost any way, shape or form," Buchanan said. "At the end of the day you've not only generated more income, but you've produced more energy. We all know that we've got energy problems in this country. And you've produced domestic energy as opposed to importing energy from oversees. That's all to the good. The more of that we can do, the better off we're all going to be."

For more on the Hugoton natural gas field, log on to Research Matters dot K-U dot E-D-U. For the University of Kansas, I'm Brendan Lynch.

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