August 9, 2012

Sedgwick County to get its first horizontal oil well

The horizontal oil drilling boom is coming to Sedgwick County.

The horizontal oil drilling boom is coming to Sedgwick County.

Shell Oil Co. has filed an intent to drill in a field in southwest Sedgwick County.

The company said it plans to drill an oil well and a water disposal well eight miles southwest of the airport. The permit indicates the site is just south of MacArthur Road, between 183rd and 199th Street West.

Shell spokesman Scott Scheffler said the company expects to start construction on the pad as soon as it gets permission from Sedgwick County.

Shell has drilled or has filed an intent to drill with the Kansas Corporation Commission more than 140 horizontal wells in Kansas. Scheffler said the company is still evaluating the commercial viability of the Kansas play and expects to decide by the end of the year whether Kansas is profitable enough to drill more intensely or whether it will pack up and leave.

Over the past 18 months Shell, SandRidge Energy, Tug Hill Energy, Chesapeake Energy and others have drilled or filed an intent to drill nearly 400 horizontal wells in Kansas. Most of the wells are in a strip of four counties along the Oklahoma state line from Sumner west to Comanche, but in the past few months the companies have moved into counties to the north and northwest.

They use special drilling rigs capable of drilling at an angle in order to bore a horizontal hole through a particular layer of rock. The cost of such an oil well is $2 million to $3 million, four to six times more than a regular vertical well.

In Kansas, these horizontal drilling companies are targeting a layer 3,500 to 4,000 feet down called the Mississippian Limestone. When the drill bit reaches the right depth, it typically bores a 4,000-foot-long horizontal hole through the layer. A crew then pumps pressurized water, sand and chemicals into the hole, a process called fracking, to fracture rock around the bore hole. Because of the large amount of salty water in the limestone, companies pump out the oil and water together, separate out the water and then pump it to the injection well and pump it 5,500 feet down to the Arbuckle layer.

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