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The Wichita Eagle: New oil, gas sources surpass traditional

Coalbed methane tops the list for Kansas, which has the fourth-largest reserve in the country.

BY PHYLLIS JACOBS GRIEKSPOOR

Unconventional resources now account for more new production of oil and gas in North America than do their conventional counterparts.

“I guess you might ask if they are really still unconventional,” said Stephen Trammel, who addressed the IHS Energy Regional Roundup in Wichita this week. “They’ve become more the mainstream.”

At the top of the list of unconventional resources is coalbed methane. And Kansas is mainstream in that resource with growing production in the Cherokee Basin, the fourth-largest coalbed reserve in the United States.

Additional unconventional resources include oil sands, oil shales, bitumen and natural gas from shales, including the Barnett Shales in Texas and Oklahoma.

“The bottom line is these are huge resources,” Trammel said. “The reserves in Canada and Venezuela are three times the size of the reserves in Saudi Arabia.

Exploration of the heavy oil sands in the United States is just beginning, but there’s evidence that those reserves are also enormous.”

While that’s good news in terms of energy security, tapping into that oil and gas won’t be easy.

“There are a lot of issues of access,” Trammel said. “There are environmental concerns to overcome and technological hurdles to extraction.”

In Colorado, for example, Shell Oil is mining oil shale by creating a freeze wall around the zone then heating the core of the zone to drain the reservoir with conventional wells.

It’s an example, he said, of a company finding a way to eliminate the environmental destruction that would come from conventional process of digging up the rock and crushing it to extract the oil.

In other areas, oil operators are holding meetings with community leaders to point out the benefits of allowing development of new oil fields, including tax revenue and well-paying jobs, he said. And oil companies are also altering the footprint of their operations.

“All of this is happening because there is a need for the oil and the price to support going after it,” he said. “We need 24,000 new wells a year just to maintain the current level of production because of the decline in conventional wells.”

Reach P.J. Griekspoor at 316-268-6660 or [email protected].

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