No Place Like Home for Shale Gas

A recent surge in mineral rights leases makes Kansas the latest state to benefit from shale gas and frac'ing.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracing or fracking) is a technology that has been in use for decades. It has only recently gained notoriety as the abundance of shale plays across the globe has come to light. Frac'ing is used to enhance the flow of energy from a well once the drilling is done and the rig and derrick are removed from the scene. On average, it's a process that takes about three to five days to complete start to finish. Once the fracturing operation is done, the well is considered "completed," and is now ready to produce oil and/or natural gas for years, even decades, to come.

Kansas State Rep. Vince Wetta said, "They're spending millions and millions of dollars buying up leases … thousands of acres," said Wetta, a member of the joint legislative Interim Committee on Energy and Environmental Policy. "It's all fracking."

He said some recent leases have gone for more than $1,000 an acre where a few years ago those leases would have drawn considerably less.

Interestingly, the frac'ing technique was actually pioneered in Kansas in the 1940s. The method has been in use for decades, an oft overlooked fact in media reports.

Ed Cross, president of the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association (KIOGA) said, "Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology that's now available can go into these unconventional formations," Cross said. "We've known for years about these source rocks (in Kansas) … but they're in tight formations … and you couldn't get to them. The boost in potential drilling could be a 'game changer' in Kansas."

The number of intent-to-drill notices is also up in the south-central region. SandRidge, which filed no intent-to-drill notices in south-central Kansas in 2009, has filed 21 in the last six months alone. Shell, which also didn't file any drilling notices in south-central Kansas in 2009, filed seven in the last six months, and Chesapeake filed 10 intent-to-drill notices in the last six months in south-central Kansas, up from two in 2009.

James Roller, of Chesapeake Energy, said his company bought mineral leases to about 400,000 acres in four counties in south-central Kansas recently. He said the company has drilled three oil and gas wells using horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the area, and that Chesapeake is evaluating results from those wells.