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Kentucky Oil and Gas Well Data on the Web

By Ralph Derickson

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Kentucky Geological Survey Director James Cobb discusses the agency's new online oil and gas well data system.

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The data available in the online system includes information on more than 150,000 oil and gas wells drilled in Kentucky. It also includes images of the highly valued geophysical logs. These logs are long documents (up to 110 feet in length) that are similar to medical EKG's; they record critical rock properties and indicate what was found at different depths in the wells.

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Photo of former KGS Director Don Haney
Former KGS Director Don Haney is credited with moving the agency toward greater technological sophistication.

July 29, 2002 (Lexington, Ky.) -- For decades, oil and gas producers in Kentucky have been using the vast paper archive of oil and gas well records housed at the Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS), a research and public service institute located at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Today, KGS launched the nation's first free statewide, Web-accessible database of oil and gas well records.

Until recently, anyone requiring this information had to contact the KGS or use the paper records archived by KGS in its offices in Lexington or Henderson. The new system announced today provides free, 24-hour, 7-days-a-week access to 1.3 million digital images of well records for anyone with an Internet link and desktop computer. This makes it possible to view, print, copy, export or save images of the original oil and gas well records directly on a personal computer in a business office, home or local library. This online access promises to revolutionize the way companies explore for oil and gas reserves in Kentucky.

The online well record system, accessible at www.uky.edu/KGS/pubs/lop.htm, represents a great milestone in the history of KGS and the Commonwealth, and is one of the few data systems of its type anywhere in the nation and possibly in the world. This achievement required technical innovation and more than 20 years of laborious work. It was made possible by funding from the Commonwealth and foresighted thinking by KGS staff.

Donald Haney, Kentucky state geologist from 1978 to 1999, under whose direction the project began, said, "We began scanning records archived in 530 file cabinet drawers 20 years ago to preserve them from loss, wear, and tear. We believed that saving the records would be possible, even though at that time the technology we required was not yet available. I am pleased and amazed at what this system has become."

The data available in the online system includes information on more than 150,000 oil and gas wells drilled in Kentucky. It also includes images of the highly valued geophysical logs. These logs are long documents (up to 110 feet in length) that are similar to medical EKG's; they record critical rock properties and indicate what was found at different depths in the wells. The records have information on the well location, the character of the rocks drilled, and any oil and gas encountered. The new online records are expected to help industry increase the production of oil and gas in Kentucky from two sources - new, unexplored areas, and older oil and gas fields where there are significant opportunities to recover additional resources.

The late Wallace Hagan, Kentucky state geologist from 1958 to 1978, once observed, "There is more oil and gas to be found in the record room at the KGS than has been produced in Kentucky to date."

Steve Cordiviola, the project manager, said, "These records are like a library and having access to these 'books' will be a tremendous resource for industry, government, and the general public."

The new system was relatively inexpensive to develop. KGS invested about $10,000 for new equipment and 20 years of staff effort to prepare the digital images of the well records. "If this job had been performed by a commercial company," said KGS director James C. Cobb, "it might have cost more than $1 million."

The response from industry has been overwhelmingly positive. D. Michael Wallen, president of the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association and vice president of Daugherty Resources, Inc., said, "The new online database is a godsend to our industry as it will assist not only small operators who now do not have to travel to Lexington to retrieve data but large operators as well who can easily access large volumes of data."

Wallen emphasized that, "Being able to access data online is going to be a cost-efficient and time-saving method of not only doing historic research but new prospect generation."

John C. (Cran) Combs, an oil and gas consultant in Owensboro, Ky., echoed these sentiments. He travels to Lexington a couple of times each year and frequently uses the KGS field office in Henderson to access well records. In Combs' view, "The value of these (online records) will be far exceeded by the new interactive records database which is currently coming online." He continued, "I prepare maps in several states, including Indiana and Illinois. So far, no other state supports the 'map intensive' sciences as well as Kentucky."

Paul D. Dubois, a petroleum geologist who owns and operates Keyana Co., LLC, a small exploration and consulting company, explained that, "Commercial sources are expensive, and manual input is difficulty to justify and is often cost prohibitive. Data available through the KGS's efforts places it at the forefront of meeting the needs of the oil and gas industry."


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