A team of Oklahoma State University researchers and 11 energy companies are working together to discover the best way to recover oil and natural gas from the vast Mississippi Lime formation that underlies much of northern Oklahoma and western Kansas.
Led by OSU geology professor Michael Grammer, the researchers at the Boone Pickens School of Geology will spend the next two years looking at the complicated rock layers to help determine the best location and methods for drilling.
“One of the biggest problems is that because the Mississippian reservoir is so heterogeneous, nobody knows how it's distributed,” Grammer said. “The fundamental question of where the reservoir is is a starting point for this project.”
“It's a very complex play,” said Earl Reynolds, chief operating officer at Oklahoma City-based Chaparral Energy.
“Through our work with OSU, we've come up with a nice project to understand the rock in more detail and gain information to better understand the play.”
Chaparral controls 260,000 net Mississippi Lime acres and is a member of the OSU consortium.
Such partnerships are common throughout the industry, but they are especially important with the drilling required to produce oil and natural gas from complex shale, lime and other unconventional rock formations, Reynolds said.
“What makes these resource plays work is unlocking the real value that comes from a broad technical understanding of what makes them commercial,” Reynolds said. “If you don't collaborate with industry partners, you tend to delay your understanding.”
Cooperation is key
While the oil and natural gas business can be highly competitive — especially while companies are all trying to buy up the best lease areas — cooperation is essential, said Herb Martin, vice president of strategic geosciences at Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp., which also is part of the OSU consortium.
“Once the leases are established, there's a lot of benefit to working together. We can share the cost of pipelines, roads and collecting 3-D seismic data,” Martin said. “Early on in plays, people tend to be more careful about sharing information. But generally by the time you get to a point that a university or service company is putting together a consortium, there's a general understanding of who is where, and that competitive part has lessoned.”
Besides the immediate challenge of producing oil from the field, working together with universities has other benefits as well, Martin said.
“We have a good number of geologists at Devon who have graduated from Oklahoma State. We draw from them regularly,” he said. “I'm sure that in this consortium, they'll be looking at our cores and using some of our people to help put the information together. Then our guys will be looking at their grad students to see who would be good future Devon employees.”
Other members of the OSU Mississippi Lime consortium are Chesapeake Energy Corp., Longfellow Energy, Marathon Oil, Red Fork Energy, SandRidge Energy, SM Energy, TipTop Energy and Unit Energy.