The Arbuckle formation produces oil and gas in Kansas. It also is a strong aquifer, which, in the past, has been a stopping point for hammer drilling, at least in the production hole sizes of 63⁄4 inches or 77⁄8 inches. L&S Well Service, out of Cherryvale, Kan., has conquered the Arbuckle with high pressure and volume air.
The Arbuckle also is a water-discharge formation. In earlier geological papers
written on the formation, it has been described as having columns of oil and
gas, which generally are near the top. It has produced 36 percent of the total
oil from 21 oil fields over the last 100 years. Oil production peaked in the
1950s, tapering off to the point that, today, 90 percent of the wells produce
less than five barrels per day.
The Arbuckle occurs at depths ranging from about 500 feet in southeastern
Kansas to more than 7,000 feet in southwestern Kansas. Arbuckle strata thicken
as a whole from north to south and are thickest, up to 1,390 feet, in the
southeastern corner of Kansas.
Jim Lorenz, owner of L&S Well Service, says, “The Arbuckle is very porous
with lots of water; it’s like drilling in the bottom of the ocean.” The aquifer
is brine to the west. Farther east into Missouri, the elevation rises, and the
Arbuckle actually produces fresh water, according to
Air drilling is the method of choice for L&S, and having a dependable
booster is critical to the process. Lorenz says, “I have a mud pump, but
haven’t used it in a year. I like air.” It’s his goal to finish a hole in a day
to prevent watering out, or having to stop because the column of water reduces
bit force on the rock. Increasing air pressure through the hammer discharges
the head of water, allowing the bit to strike rock. L&S crews carry 2,460
feet of 41⁄2-inch Range III pipe with them, but generally don’t need to go
deeper than 2,200 feet.
Going deeper into the borehole puts more water around the annulus of the drill
string. The weight of the water at the bit, also called head pressure, requires
more air pressure to overcome the head pressure to evacuate water from the
To date, Lorenz says, “I am the only driller I know of who has air-drilled a
77⁄8-inch gas production well into Mississippian and Hayes
L&S operates a new Atlas Copco RD20 drill rig, equipped with a 1,250-cfm,
350-psi air compressor. Once drilling into the water, the head pressure begins
to build. To evacuate excess water, L&S driller, Dustin Hirrlinger, engages
the booster, but he admits, “I usually crank up the booster early because I can
drill faster.” L&S runs a two-stage Hurricane booster, although it is
possible to operate the unit in single-stage mode in more shallow
The booster sucks air from the rig compressor and any auxiliary compressor, and
converts it to a higher pressure. L&S runs a 6T 855 b2B 2000 Atlas Copco
Hurricane booster with its RD20, which can produce 2,000 psi with 350 psi of
suction. At 350-psi suction, the unit produces 2,400 cfm.
Hirrlinger says, “It is important to know what you’re doing when engaging the
booster because the water discharges at such at high pressure.” He emphasizes
the importance of chaining down the discharge line and starting slowly when
unloading the hole. At idle, the Hurricane puts out 1,500 rpm, which equates to
Lorenz points out the necessity of having a booster. “Drilling a 77⁄8-inch hole
takes twice the water that a 47⁄8-inch hole will. To lift the water, it takes a
minimum of 1,000 psi to drill into the Arbuckle 400 feet. If you don’t have the
air, you’ll lose circulation.”
Speed is a big advantage when drilling with air, but Lorenz also explains that
he can get a straighter hole using air and a smooth-bore stabilizer. “When
logging our holes, we have less than a 2-foot deviation where others can have a
20- to 30-foot,” he says.
Not all of L&S’s wells are disposal wells. Lorenz does everything from
geothermal wells to gas and oil wells. Lorenz can work for anybody – and has in
his 32-year career – but he likes working with smaller customers, and fills in
with the big gas companies.
Shallow Oil and Gas Topics: L&S Well Service Conquers Arbuckle Formation
July 1, 2009