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Ellis County still No. 1 oil producer




Son of C.W. Bill "Corn" Sr.

Even though oil production fell slightly in 2013, Ellis County continues to be the state's largest producing county with 3.5 million barrels pulled from the ground.

It might, however, have to keep a close eye on new production in Rawlins County to maintain that lead.

Kansas production increased in 2013 as new wells were put down in different areas of the state.

Total production in Kansas amounted to 46.8 million barrels in 2013 compared to 43.7 million barrels in 2012. That's a relatively big increase from the 40.1 million barrels produced in 2010.

Much of the increase in oil production came from wells in south-central and southwest Kansas, in part the result of horizontal drilling that has all but stopped in the state.

Conversely, natural gas production in Kansas continued its decline, although at a slower pace than in recent years, according to estimates from the Kansas Geological Survey.

Falling 1.5 percent, natural gas production in 2013 stood at 295 billion cubic feet compared to 299 bcf in 2012.

Based on prevailing prices, the value of oil production increased from $3.7 billion in 2012 to $4.1 billion last year, according to KGS. Natural gas values were sharply higher in 2013, worth $1.1 billion compared to $790 million in 2012.

Natural gas prices ranged from $3 to $3.80 per thousand cubic feet last year compared to an all-time high of $14 per mcf in 2008.

"The relatively high prices for crude oil have fueled the steady increase in annual production in Kansas since the early 2000s," KGS geologist Lynn Watney said in a statement.

"Natural gas produced in Kansas wells has continued a decline that began in 1995, with a brief reversal in 2008 when gas prices spiked. With current prices for natural gas, production has returned to the levels of the long-term decline," Watney said.

Since 2010, much of the state's increased oil production has been in what's known as Mississippi Lime, approximately 5,000 feet underground in southern and western Kansas. Much of that oil has been tapped into by way of the horizontal drilling.

"Through January 2014, 334 horizontal wells in the Mississippian limestone play have reported production, as have 12 horizontal wells that targeted other formations in Kansas," KGS geologist David Newell said. "However, it appears that production from the horizontal wells in Kansas is now somewhat steady or slightly declining."

Horizontal well production constituted 9.7 percent of Kansas oil and gas production in October. By January, that percentage had dropped to 7.7

With 2.4 million barrels, Barber County was the second largest oil producing county in the state, much of that from horizontal wells.

In order, the remaining top producing counties were: Barton, Ness, Russell, Haskell, Rooks, Finney, Harper and Graham.

Rawlins County production jumped sharply, from 56th place in 2012 to 22nd last year.

In the first four months of 2014, KGS said, it has produced more oil than any county except Ellis.

"A significant amount of new oil has been found in Rawlins County in the Upper Pennsylvanian Lansing-Kansas City reservoirs," Watney said. "The Lansing-Kansas City accounts for a significant amount of Kansas' oil production, and a combination of higher prices, new ideas and use of latest technology have helped to reinvigorate this area."

Virtually all of the Rawlins County wells are based on traditional techniques, using vertical drilling.

Some of the wells, however, have seen peak production in excess of 2,000 barrels of oil per day, while the average vertical well in Kansas produces approximately 2 to 2.5 barrels per day.