The activity surrounding the developing oil and gas play in the Mississippi Lime formation that underlies much of southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma is growing.
Last week, the Kansas Water Office teamed up with Kansas State University to present forums in Wichita and Hays to discuss the impact the potentially enormous build-out of the play will have on water supplies, water quality, property rights and infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
Representatives of Shell Oil Company talked about that company's role in the drilling activity in south central Kansas. Shell has drilled three wells and plans seven more in the exploratory phase of its development. It holds land leases to hundreds of thousands of acres. Competition between Shell and two other "majors," Chesapeake Energy and Sand Ridge, has driven lease prices above $1,000 an acre.
On Wednesday, officials told attendees at the forum that so far, production has been quite promising.
While it is still too early to predict just how big the play will be in Kansas, it almost certainly will be a major increase in oil and gas production in Kansas over the next several years, and that is good news for state government, which derives strong tax revenues from oil and gas income, property, severance and ad valorem taxes.
The full development of the resource however, does pose some challenges for governments and for residents of the area which so far includes the lower tier of counties from Comanche to Chautauqua.
The KCC has had to add staff and change its way of doing business to deal with the rapid increase in drilling permit requests. County appraisal offices have been overwhelmed by long lines of leasing agents trying to verify land ownership.
The arrival of dozens of workers has meant long lines at rural cafes and a scramble to find enough motel rooms and even campgrounds to house them.
It has farmers concerned about the potential for contamination of groundwater and the sufficiency of water supplies. Almost all of the new activity is in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing which requires up to four times more water than the vertical wells that have been standard to Kansas.
The movement of hundreds of trucks carrying drilling rigs, parts, drilling mud, cement, fresh water, drill cuttings and produced water has county governments worried about the impact on roads and bridges.
And it has school officials worrying about a major influx of students to districts with insufficient infrastructure to handle them.
Be sure to watch this website and your monthly Kansas Farmer magazine for more developments.