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Pumping up the economy

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Ellis County long has been the top oil producing county in the state.

It's likely to stay there for a while longer, although one longtime oilman said the county has been so well-developed, it's becoming more difficult to find a place to drill.

That ultimately might mean a reduction as wells play out.

While all the numbers aren't in just yet, Ellis County produced 2.99 million barrels of oil in the first 10 months of 2012.

If production stays even with what it was through October, Ellis County could produce more than 3.5 million barrels of oil, more than what was produced in 2011.

Collectively, total production in Ellis County since the first well was drilled is just shy of 500 million barrels of oil.

While Ellis County is home to the biggest oil producing field in the state, the Bemis-Shutts field in the northeast part of the county, there's been a sharp increase in the number of wells being drilled.

"Right now, things are doing good," said Joe Hess, who long has been at the helm of Dreiling Oil. "But you never know."

He's delighted to see oil producers boost production to help cover what the United States needs, rather than importing oil from other countries.

"We've done four wells since the first of the year," Hess said of Dreiling Oil, drilling in Ellis and Trego counties. "We are pretty active. We don't talk about it much."

The price of oil has been a boost to the oil industry, he said, but so has seismic 3-D testing, which boosts the accuracy of finding oil.

With the help of seismic testing, Hess said, Dreiling's success rate has stayed close to 70 percent.

Dreiling's not likely to dip into the horizontal drilling process.

"It's not going to work for everyone," he said. "Too expensive."

He's convinced Ellis County won't see much of the process, which typically goes deeper than more traditional wells and then angles off.

"I don't think Ellis County's going to be in that area, unless they come up with a new technology," he said.

Wells that incorporate horizontal drilling are becoming a significant player in the state, however.

SandRidge Exploration and Production, for example, is sitting as the seventh largest oil producing company -- with 754,852 barrels produced from 78 wells -- in Kansas for 2012.

In 2011, however, it had just 14 wells, producing 142,297 barrels, and didn't even make the list of the top 50 oil producing companies in the state.

Just shy of 175 horizontal wells were drilled in Kansas last year, with 25 reported so far this year.

It might take a new technology to boost overall oil production in Ellis County, given the sheer volume of wells that have been drilled in the county.

"I think it's going to be harder to find any good locations," Dreiling said.