Lifted by prices and successful well tests from an extension of the emerging Mississippian Lime play, oil production in Kansas rose last year, according to new estimates by the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas. Natural gas production in 2011, however, declined by more than 6%.

Oil output increased from 2010 to 2011 by about 2.5% from 40.5 million bbl to 41.5 million bbl. Over the same period gas production declined by about 6.6%, from 333.2 Bcf in 2010 to 311.6 Bcf in 2011.

“Except for 2009, the price of oil has generally risen steadily from $25/bbl in 2002 to $100/bbl or more today,” said Survey geologist Lynn Watney. “During that time Kansas oil production has increased 24%.

The cumulative value of the state’s production increased to an estimated $3.5 billion in 2011 from $2.79 billion the year before, according to state officials.

Higher oil prices spurred the increased activity, “particularly horizontal drilling, in a tier of south-central Kansas counties along the Oklahoma border where nearly all of the 37 horizontal wells drilled in the state in 2011 are located,” the geologists said. “Still in the early stages of development, these wells had only a minimal impact on the state’s increased production.”

The Mississippian Lime formation, also known in the industry as the Mississippi Lime, extends from northern Oklahoma into southern Kansas, and several producers have begun staking prospects in the region. SandRidge Energy Inc. is one of the biggest Kansas operators; it operates a joint venture (JV) in Kansas with Spain’s Repsol YPF SA (see Shale Daily, Dec. 27, 2011), as well as one in southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma with South Korea’s Atinum Partners Co. (see Shale Daily, Aug. 8, 2011).

Other Mississippian Lime explorers include Chesapeake Energy Corp., which is working on a JV for a portion of its holdings (see Shale Daily, May 3), Chaparral Energy, Devon Energy Corp., Encana Corp. and Range Resources Corp. (see Shale Daily, April 9).

The oil-bearing Mississippian rocks in southern Kansas, formed about 350 million years ago in shallow sea deposits, are 5,000 feet underground, said KGS.

“Most of these horizontal wells in southern Kansas utilize staged hydraulic fracturing [fracking] techniques and target the poorly drained and less permeable Mississippian limestones,” said Survey geologist David Newell. “These wells are a continuation of an oil play that started in north-central Oklahoma and progressed north into Kansas in mid-2010.”

Production data still is not publicly available for most of the recently drilled wells in southern Kansas, but the geologist team said the best well to date, in Harper County, is pumping at a rate of 850 b/d of oil and 1.6 MMcf/d of gas, Newell said. Production figures for the well are based on five months of reporting in 2011.

Even with the increased activity in the south-central part of the state, all but one of the top 10 oil-producing counties last year was farther north in central Kansas, or to the west, said Survey officials.

Ellis County continued to lead the state in oil production with an estimated 3.4 million bbl, which was 3% higher than in 2010, followed by Barton, Russell, Rooks and Barber counties. Barber County was the only south-central county in the top 10. Barton, Russell and Rooks counties all produced about 2-2.1 million bbl in 2011, while Barber County produced about 1.9 million bbl. Russell County moved up from fifth in 2010 to third in 2011, and Barber County moved from seventh to fifth.

Rounding out the top 10 producers were Ness, Haskell, Finney, Graham and Stafford counties. Fourteenth-ranked Logan County had a 39% rise in production year/year, the biggest percentage increase in the state. New wells there generally produce from the Lansing, Kansas City and Marmaton groups of Pennsylvanian age, according to the Survey.

Meanwhile, the cumulative value of natural gas in Kansas dropped to $1.2 billion in 2011 from $1.33 billion in 2010 as prices and production fell.

“Drilling of coalbed methane [CBM] and conventional gas wells has continued to decline since 2006, clearly a reflection of the soft natural gas market,” said Watney.

The expansive Hugoton Gas area in southwestern Kansas remained the most prolific gas-producing region in the state even though output fell last year, officials said. All but two of the 2011 top 10 gas-producing counties — Barber and Neosho — are in the Hugoton area.

Stevens County again claimed the top gas producing spot in 2011 with estimated output of 4.4 Bcf, but it still was down 9% from 2010. The counties of Grant, Kearny, Haskell, Barber, Morton, Finney, Seward and Neosho followed.

Like its oil production, Barber County rose from being the seventh biggest gas producing county in 2010 to the fifth largest in 2011 because of increased output from the Mississippian Lime. Barber was the only county in the top 10 gas-producing counties with rising production rates.

Natural gas in Neosho and other southeastern Kansas counties is produced mainly from shallow coalbeds, said the geologists. CBM production became profitable in Kansas in the early 2000s, but output dropped off dramatically in 2008 after prices peaked and began falling.

“Oil and gas development contributes to every economic sector of Kansas,” Watney said. “As we can see from the production numbers, the value of oil and gas in the last decade closely correlates to that development.”

Production data for the state, by county and field, is available at