Kentucky Oil and Gas Overview: Future Trends

Contact: Brandon Nuttall


Experts generally agree that oil will remain a primary transportation fuel for the next 20 to 40 years. In many of Kentucky's larger and older fields, oil is being produced using secondary or enhanced recovery methods. As long as the price of oil justifies the expense, new technology, including enhanced recovery as the result of carbon sequestration (CO2 flooding), will be developed and applied to produce additional oil from the state's known fields. To reduce our dependence on oil, new energy resources must be developed and reach significant levels of deployment in the commercial and public sectors. Given the current economic climate (i.e., a price of oil in the $20 to $30 per barrel range) the trend will be a continued decline in domestic oil production with the abandonment of marginal wells and a corresponding loss of access to resources, jobs, and revenue. Oil, however, is not just a transportation fuel. Many products are derived from crude oil: lubricants, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizer, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and others. As the domestic resource is abandoned, the dependence on foreign resources will continue to increase.

Natural gas is a low-carbon fuel that will increase in importance. It is considered a cleaner alternative to oil both as a fuel for domestic transportation and a supplemental fuel for electric power generation. Current production trends reflect the increase in demand for cleaner-burning (i.e., lower CO2 emissions) natural gas. Initially, use of natural gas as a transportation fuel will increase. In Kentucky, this means continued development of Devonian shale gas (see enhanced production in east Kentucky), coalbed methane, and exploration for potential deep gas resources (Trenton/Black River, Rough Creek Graben, East Continent Rift Basin, and Rome Trough). Devonian shale gas production will be extended into western Kentucky as the gas-gathering, compression, pipeline, and processing infrastructure is expanded. Fuel-cell or other technologies will eventually replace natural gas. Natural gas will likely remain important as a source for hydrogen for fuel cells and as a feed stock for the chemical and manufacturing industries, however.

In the future, carbon, in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), may be a regulated commodity. The CO2 removed from the atmosphere will require disposal or "sequestration." Kentucky's producing fields will represent a significant opportunity for recycling and disposal of CO2, often with the benefit of enhanced oil and natural gas recovery.

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© 2002 Kentucky Geological Survey, University of Kentucky
Created 8-Jul-2002