WICHITA, Kan. - Oil and gas exploration is one of the bright spots of the local economy. The industry is still in its early stages in Kansas so it's not yet known whether it will become the economic gusher some hope it could be. Independent oil and gas producers met in Wichita Monday to discuss their future in the area.
The new oil wells dotting the landscape of Harper County have captured the attention of local lawmakers. They are part of a Kansas congressional delegation asked to talk at the Kioga Convention about what might impede or help oil exploration here. "It's been impeded, unfortunately, by the administration which has almost declared war on the oil and gas industry," U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts said.
There are continuing environmental concerns over horizontal drilling and fracking, controversial techniques that allow oil producers extract oil and gas they couldn't get to before. "We've been doing fracking in the industry for a long time and every study I've seen indicates that fracking is safe," U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran said.
Major oil producers like Shell, Sandridge and Chesapeake are actively drilling in an underground reservoir of oil and gas known as the Mississipean Play. Many of the independents represented at Monday's meeting are on the sidelines. "The independents in Kansas are not participating in this to a great extent. Some are," Abercrombie Energy President Dave Dayvault said.
Dayvault, a past Kioga president, sites the higher cost of the unconventional drilling and the much higher leasing bonuses landowners are now getting in that particular oil patch. "Right now we don't have a good handle on exactly what that play will do," Kioga President Ed Cross said.
Others are more confident with what they're seeing. "It depends on what you mean by boom. There are real private companies investing their own money and taking risks. That's always a leading indicator for me," said U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo says they should know in the next three or four months what the scope of the opportunity in south central Kansas is and what it really means. That's after more reports come in of how much the wells are producing.