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CONSERVATION OF NATURAL
GAS !N KENTUCKY

~

W1LLARO ROUSE JILLSON




EXCHANGE




OTHER BOOKS

BY

DR. WlLLARD ROUSE JlLLSON



GEOLOGY

Oil and Gas Resources of Kentucky, 1919.
Geology and Coals of Stinking Creek, 1919.
Contribution, to Kentucky) Geologij, 1920.
Economic Paper, on Kentucky Geology, 1921.
Production of Eastern Kentucky Crude Oils, 1921
The Sixth Geological Survey, 1921.
Oil Field Stratigraphy of Kentucky, 1922.

HISTORY

The Coal Industry in Kentucky, 1922

BIOGRAPHY

Edwin P. Morrow Kentuckian, 1922.

VERSE

Songs and Satires, 1920.



THE

CONSERVATION OF NATURAL GAS
IN KENTUCKY




A GAS FIELD WASTE

In this Eastern Kentucky well the driller is Wowing the "gas head"
off. The well produced oil, which the driller wasted as "an experiment."



THE i l^i

Conservation of Natural Gas
In Kentucky



BY

WlLLARD ROUSE JlLLSON
B. S., M. S., Sc. D.

Director and State Geologist of the Kentucky
Geological Survey



Illustrated with Forty-four New Photographs
Maps and Diagrams



FIRST EDITION



JOHN P. MORTON & COMPANY

INCORPORATED
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY

1922



Copyright 1922 By
WILLARD ROUSE JILLSON



All Rights Reserved







To My

FATHER

From whom I learned in youth the value of

Patience and Perseverance

this little book

is
dedicated



CONTENTS



Page
Illustrations 9

Preface 11

CHAPTER I
The Age of Waste 17

CHAPTER II
Natural Gas Resources of Kentucky 26

CHAPTER III
Our Natural Gas Industries 68

CHAPTER IV
Trend of Critical Comment 103

CHAPTER V
Natural Gas Conservation __124



Selected Bibliography 145

Index __147



ILLUSTRATIONS

Page
A Gas Field Waste Frontispiece

1. A Pipe Line Nearly on End - 18

2. Ignorance Resulting in Loss 21

3. A Gasser Correctly Closed In 24

4. Gas Pipe Line Construction in Timber 27

5. A Standard Drilling Rig . - 28

6. A Taylor County Gasser 29

7. Natural Gas Pools and Pipe Lines (Map) 32

8. Location, and Decline Curves of Beaver Creek Gas Field 34

9. Location, and Decline Curves of Martin County Gas

Field 38

10. Location, and Decline Curves of Win Gas Field 42

11. Location, and Decline Curves of Menifee County Gas

Field - 48

12. Location, and Decline Curves of Meade County Gas

Field 54

13. An Oil Field Waste 56

14. A Natural Gas Structure 60

15. Drilling for Gas with a Portable Rig 63

16. Preliminary Work on Gas Pipe Line 70

17. Up Hill, Down Hill, and On 71

18. Kentucky Produced and Imported Natural Gas 74

19. Central Kentucky Natural Gas Company's Pressure

Plant 78

20. Eastern Carbon Plant in Operation 80

21. North View of Liberty Carbon Plant 84

22. Northeastern View of Eastern Carbon Plant- 86

23. Making Natural Gas Carbon Black 89

24. A Portable Drilling Rig . 91

25. Liberty Carbon Plant in Operation 93

26. Railroad Yard Liberty Carbon Company, Floyd County,

Kentucky 95

27. A Portion of the Beaver Creek Gas Field (Map) 96

28. Not Bathing Repairing a Leak 98

29. Lowering a Twelve-Inch Line 101

30. Gas Line Construction in Johnson County 104

31. Not a Quarry A Pipe Line 106

32. "Blowing a Gasser" 108



Page

33. A Temple Hill Gasser "Closed In" 111

34. Gas Pipe Lines Must Cross Creeks 115

35. What the Consumer Does Not Know 125

36. Ready for the Gas Main 127

37. Where a Pipe Line Withstood a Washout 130

38. A "Closed In" Kentucky Gasser 132

39. A Twelve-Inch Gas Pipe Line Crossing the Kentucky

River 134

40. Drainage vs. a Gas Pipe Line 137

41. A Menifee County "Booster" 139

42. A Gas Pipe Line Near the Big Sandy 141

43. Telephone Line and Natural Gas Pipe Line 143



AUTHOR'S PREFACE



CONSERVATION is not a word to be dealt with
lightly. Its implications are many, and its value
frequently has to be accepted as good while con-
tingent upon a future return. A practical application of
conservation always necessitates an industrial readjust-
ment, and this in turn generally brings about financial
and business hardships for various individuals and cor-
porations. The interests of a large community or group
of communities have never been advanced except at the
sacrifice of the few.

In the natural gas problem the necessity for immediate
conservation is perhaps more vividly apparent than in
any of the other mineral resources. This is particularly
true of the gas reserves of Kentucky. The really serious
situation which has developed in our sister States of
West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania may be delayed
in Kentucky if effective preservation measures are intro-
duced at once. The matter is urgent. As in all regional
problems of natural resource conservation, the actual
co-operation of the individual producer and consumer, as
well as that of the conservation-effecting agent, will be
required if the best results are to be obtained.




State Geologist of Kentucky.



Old State Capitol,
Frankfort, Kentucky.
January 15, 1922.



THE

CONSERVATION OF NATURAL GAS
IN KENTUCKY



CHAPTER I
THE AGE OF WASTE

At no time in the history of the world has the rate of
industrial expansion been as rapid as during the past
decade. This is especially true of the United States. The
Northeastern and Middle West manufacturing regions of
this country have literally been hives of industry. As
might naturally be expected, the development of the
mineral resources of the world and of the United States
in particular has plunged ahead at an unprecedented
rate during this period. Mining has been, in fact, a
complement of our industrial growth.

New manufacturing industries, as well as new kinds
of manufacturing, have created new and increased
markets, and an incessant demand for the basic crude
minerals of this country. This has been true of coal,
petroleum, gas, and the iron, lead, zinc and copper ores.
The drain has been particularly severe at the same time
on the forest resources of this country, especially the
southern Appalachian region ; but this latter problem is
outside the province of this discussion, though eco-
nomically closely related to it.

In the feverish haste of the mineral resource pro-
ducers to supply an ever growing and gluttonous market
on all sides, there has crept unheeded and unchallenged
into the producing industries such practices as should not
only shock our present day somewhat skeptical con-
sciences, but cause us to anxiously contemplate the
probable status of our national economic security in the
not too far distant future. Certain it is that in the years
to come our posterity will be forced to solve many difficult
and entirely unnecessary mineral producing problems



NATURAL GAS OF KENTUCKY



because of our present day reckless extravagance. At the
same time very greatly reduced supplies of mineral
resources and their widespread substitution will become
the rule.

NATURAL GAS DEPLETION AT HAND

Indeed the first day of natural resource diminution
and hunger is at hand. Figures compiled for the entire
United States show that the peak natural gas production
of 795,110,376,000 cubic feet was reached in 1917. This
great fuel resource, once considered an oil field liability,
later an important by-product, and finally a household
and industrial necessity, decreased 74,109,417,000 cubic
feet or 9 per cent in 1918. Present indications are that
the decline has continued on down through 1919, 1920,
and 1921, though the exact figures to verify this statement
are not available now.

The situation during the last few years has become so
acute that many industries using natural gas have been
forced to abandon it. Domestic and industrial consumers
in outlying sections have been forced to substitute coal,
and in those municipalities located close to or within the
great gas fields of the Appalachian region rates for pur-
chase have been rapidly increased as the supply has
waned. In such cities as Cleveland, Columbus, Cincin-
nati, Huntington, Charleston, Wheeling, Ashland, Lex-
ington, Louisville, and Pittsburgh there has already been
introduced or is now in the process of introduction a
sliding upward scale for the purchase of natural gas.
Some conservation legislation has also been introduced in
the Appalachian district to keep unused supplies of
natural gas within the boundaries of the State in which
it is produced.



THE AGE OF WASTE 17



PETROLEUM RESERVES ARE LIMITED

The interpretation of a special report recently com-
pleted showing the petroleum reserves of the United
States to be 9,150,000,000 barrels, indicates clearly that
the pangs of severe mineral resource hunger will in all
probability be felt in this industry between 1940 and
1950. The following passages excerpted from this report*
allow but a single construction the imperative need of
rigid economy and conservation:

". . . . the oil reserves of the country, as the
public has frequently been warned, appear adequate to
supply the demand for only a limited number of years.
The annual production of the country is now almost half
a billion barrels, but the annual consumption, already
well beyond the half billion mark, is still growing. For
some years we have had to import oil, and with the
growth in demand, our dependence on foreign oil has
become steadily greater, in spite of our own increase in
output. It is, therefore, evident that the people of the
United States should be informed as fully as possible as
to the reserves now left in this country

"The estimated reserves are enough to satisfy the
present requirements of the United States for only 20
years, if the oil could be taken out of the ground as fast
as it is wanted. Should these estimates fall even so much
as two billion barrels short of the actual recovery, that
error of 22 per cent would be equivalent to but four
years' supply, a relatively short extension of life. . . .

' ' In the light of these estimates as to the extent of our
supplies of natural petroleum, the committee points out
the stern obligation of the citizen, the producer, and the
Government to give most serious study to the more com-



Press notice U. S. G. S. 12198, January, 1922.



18



NATURAL GAS OF KENTUCKY




A PIPE LINE NEARLY ON END

The construction of a natural gas pipe line in Eastern Kentucky is
attended with great difficulty, as this view shows.



THE AGE OF WASTE 19



plete extraction of the oil from the ground, as well as to
the avoidance of waste, either through direct losses or
through misuse of crude oil or its products/'

As the domestic supply of natural petroleum de-
creases, prices for the many commodity necessities refined
from it will increase materially and progressively.
Throughout this country those industries and individuals
making use of products refined from petroleum will be
forced to meet the advancing cost. Such costs for many
will be prohibitive. Substitutes -both good and bad will
flood the market. Inferior makeshifts will no doubt
depreciate the arts and many industries. The automo-
bile and the industrial gas engine will in a large measure
become relics, unless an adequate substitute for gasoline
is produced and sold for a reasonable price. Large users
of such necessary by-products as lubricating oils will
find themselves confronted by a distinctly serious
situation.

COAL PRODUCTION Is WASTEFUL

Conditions attending the development of the coal re-
sources of Kentucky are strictly comparable to those
found elsewhere in the recently exploited coal fields of
the United States, and. will serve as an interesting
example of our lawless prodigality. In the eastern and
western coal fields of Kentucky there is much being done
in the way of attempted coal production that honestly
invites the most severe criticism. While it is true that
most of the larger companies have operated their proper-
ties from the start along the lines of the best engineering
practice, it is known that hundreds have gone about the
production of coal with little or no mining system at all.

In many cases owners of small coal mines are entirely
inexperienced in the coal producing business prior to



20 NATURAL GAS OF KENTUCKY

starting their new mining operations. In response to the
unusual demand for the product, properties have 'been
acquired and the new so-called operators have proceeded
to produce coal from these new properties. The result
has always been a long succession of mistakes and
failures, since such operations are largely an experi-
ment at every step. This deplorable condition of affairs
has been particularly true of the small "one-horse'
mines, and the wagon mines ; but many instances of much
larger operations could be cited in both the eastern and
western coal fields. Fallen-in entries, tumbled-down
tipples, and brush covered railroad spurs are the common
ear marks of the present day failure of this kind of
coal mining.

The ultimate results of such mining methods are
obvious upon casual inspection. The experienced operator
using systematic methods calls it "ground-hogging" coal;
but no term of derision is strong enough to adequately
describe the practice. Without method or principle, the
would-be operator removes that coal which is most easily
obtained. He runs his entries in all directions, and
generally has no mine map to show what amount of coal
he has moved and what remains to be operated. His
rooms are of all sizes, shapes, and descriptions, generally
untimbered, with slate and coal "gobbed" at the right
or the left, as has suited best his present convenience.
Mine water has been given little if any attention, and not
infrequently whole rooms are drowned out and abandoned
long before they are completely mined. In the end this
kind of coal mining leaves not infrequently 50 to 75 per
cent of the coal in the ground as pillars, walls, partly cut,
drowned out and unmined units.



THE AGE OF WASTE



21



When he has brought his property into this state of
chaos, the untrained operator generally abandons it, and
turns to virgin properties for a repetition of the same
performance. The coal remaining in such abandoned
properties generally is, or will be within a few years,
beyond recovery. Due to the softening effects of mine
water, roofs will have fallen in, pillars will have collapsed,
and other conditions developed which will make the
future operation on any such property not only extremely




IGNORANCE RESULTING IN LOSS

This well which is located in Clay County was an excellent gasser. It
was left without proper casing and tubing. Salt water softened a shale
at some depth and it caved in, ruining the hole and shutting off the gas.

hazardous and expensive, but quite impossible from a
commercial standpoint. Instead of mining practically
all of his coal as engineering methods allow, he has left
a very large percentage in the ground. This portion,
whatever it amounts to, has been lost to the world for all
time. It has been deliberately wasted !



22 NATURAL GAS OF KENTUCKY

IGNORANCE PRODUCES OIL LOSSES

In Kentucky's oil fields, the same kind of wasteful
operator may be found at every hand. With nothing
better to do, he organizes an oil company and starts to
drill wells without any idea as to the geological or drilling
problems which he must encounter. He is almost certain
to drill through the oil sands "by mistake," allowing the
oil in many cases to drain away into porous strata below,
or the salt water of underlying strata to find its way up
into the oil sand.

Any of these practices operate to bring ruin on the
property. If continued over a number of adjoining
productive leases they will endanger the life and pro-
ductivity of the field by dissipating the oil in the sand.
In the terms of the driller, such practices bring about a
"drowning out" of the petroleum. The inexperienced
operator, if he strikes gusher oil, is generally not pre-
pared to save it, and in any event will lose much at the
casinghead. Not infrequently he will tank it in an open
tank for several months or years, while he is making a
shift to get a pipe-line connection, and occasionally loses
it by fire or other disaster before he can run it into a line.

If the first well is a small producer, he will frequently
abandon it, as he thinks temporarily. In the meantime
water will take possession of it and ruin its productive
qualities. If he has developed gas in small quantities
with his oil, he will let the well blow open, thinking that
by reducing the rock pressure of his gas he will increase
at the same time the flow of the oil. He very seldom
obtains the selfish results desired, however, but does
generally succeed in disrupting the proper relationship
of gas and oil reserves of his own lease. His practices
also tend to work havoc with the properties of adjoining



THE AGE OF WASTE 23



leases, and frequently the entire field. Instead of setting
up such forces in the oil "sand" as might result in an
increased accumulation of commercial petroleum, he
not infrequently develops a greater tendency toward
petroleum dissemination. This ultimately results in mak-
ing the field less commercial and less productive than at
the time the well was drilled in. When it is taken into
consideration that between 50 per cent and 80 per cent
of all the oil originally in the "sand" will remain in the
ground after present producing methods have been
exhausted, the total loss, including that induced by
ignorance and folly, is very great indeed.

Irregularity of pumping any group of wells in an oil
field will induce the pasting up of the oil sands with
natural waxes to such an extent that wells so attended
will naturally fall off gradually in their production. In
abandoning his property, if it is not a large producer,
many an operator has pulled the casing and failed to
plug the water and oil sands. The result of this unlawful
practice, as might be cited in some of the Knox County,
Kentucky, fields, has been to fill the oil sands with water.
The oil which these sands contained is slowly but surely
driven out of commercial pools under the water pressure,
and widely disseminated through new and unknown
regions adjacent. Wherever this oil spoliation has taken
place the present generation may be accused of a wanton
mineral resource waste, the great value of which it is
quite as impossible to estimate as it is to recover.

NATURAL GAS WASTE STATEWIDE

The natural gas fields of Kentucky are well acquainted
with the reckless operator. In this State hundreds of
excellent gas wells have been drilled in eastern, western



24



NATURAL GAS OF KENTUCKY



and southern Kentucky, and have been allowed to return
unused their priceless treasure to the atmosphere.
Notable examples of this practice, which it is true in
recent years has been somewhat corrected, occur in the




A GASSER CORRECTLY CLOSED IN

Although the drilling rig is still at this location, the driller has already
got his well "closed in" and is saving the gas.

Floyd, Johnson, Barren, Green, Taylor, and Grayson
County gas fields. Some eastern Kentucky wells have



THE AGE OF WASTE 25



been allowed in the recent past to blow open for years,
and the guilty parties who have perpetrated an irrepar-
able wrong not only against the field, but against the
consuming public, have gone unreprimanded.

The public in general has been slow to realize that
natural gas exists, like all other material things, in a
perfectly definite though largely an unknown quantity.
All natural gas pools contain, could we but figure it, a cer-
tain number of cubic feet of gas, and no more. When
this amount of gas is used up or otherwise dissipated, it
can never be replenished. It is a mistaken conception,
but a common one, that natural gas fields will "come
back," if they are not drawn upon for a while. Nothing
could be more fallacious. Natural gas fields, coal fields,
oil fields, and all mineral resources to which we may turn
our hand in a time of need, exist in a certain amount,
which can never be increased. We may use them care-
fully, like the thrifty housewife, and extend their period
of productivity over a relatively long time; or we may
squander them recklessly, priceless as they are, much like
the sailor in port. If we do the latter, we will find to our
sorrow as a people that what we once thought was an
unlimited mineral resource birthright, was in fact a very
limited resource, quite susceptible of exhaustion by our
modern methods of exploitation.



CHAPTER II

NATURAL GAS RESOURCES
OF KENTUCKY

The commercial production of natural gas in the
State of Kentucky dates back to the year 1863, when the
old Moreman well near Brandenburg in Meade County,
Kentucky, was drilled. It was utilized in the manu-
facture of salt from brines which were found associated
with the gas in this and other wells in the Brandenburg
district. For a number of years this Ohio River field was
the only one of much importance in the State, but with
the discovery of natural gas in large amounts in Ohio
and West Virginia in the middle 80 's, increased activity
at once set in, which resulted in the laying of an 8-inch
transmission line from the Brandenburg field to Louis-
ville. The metropolis of Kentucky, situated 30 miles to
the northeast of this gas field, thus became the first large
consumer, and the Kentucky Rock Gas Company, later
the Kentucky Heating and Lighting Company, which
supplied the natural gas, became the first public utilities
corporation giving natural gas service.

The development of the natural gas resources of Ken-
tucky has been one of gradual rather than rapid increase.
At least six rather distinctive periods may be noted in
the growth of this industry. These are as follows :

(1) (1750-1872) Period of no commercial develop-
ment. From the time of early explorations in Kentucky
up to and including the drilling in of the Moreman
property, natural gas was known, its inflammable quali-



NATURAL GAS RESOURCES OF KENTUCKY 27

ties were recognized, but it lacked commercialization.
(2) (1873-1892) Period of early commercialization of
natural gas. Meade and Breckinridge* County gas fields
chief source of supply. (3) (1893-1905) Period of wide-
spread exploration. Development of large gas production
in Martin County. Discovery of the Menifee County
field. Initial declines of Meade and Breckinridge Coun-




GAS PIPE LINE CONSTRUCTION IN TIMBER

Before gas mains can be laid in the mountain region of Eastern Ken-
tucky, timber-cutting crews must follow the line surveyed and clear away
all trees and underbrush.

ties. (4) (1906-1912) Period of eastern Kentucky
natural gas exploitation. Drilling up of the Martin
County field. Development of the Menifee County field ;
gradual depletion of Meade and Breckinridge County
fields to very small figure. (5) (1913-1917) Period of



28 NATURAL GAS OF KENTUCKY



importation from West Virginia and Ohio. Martin
County becomes the chief developed source of Kentucky
natural gas. Meade and Menifee Counties practically
abandoned. (6) (1918-1921) Period of intensive develop-
ment throughout Kentucky. Martin County still a small
gas producer. Johnson, Breathitt, Floyd, and other
counties become large producers of natural gas in
Kentucky.




, - A STANDARD DRILLING RIG

This gas well is located on the Kentucky side of the Tug Fork of the
Big Sandy River in Martin County near Hermit, W. Va. Standard der-
ricks are used in drilling for the deeper gas "sands."

Up to and including the year 1890, Meade County was
the only natural gas producing field of much importance
in the State, and continued so until the opening of the
Martin County field in 1893. The gas production from
Martin County was not utilized, however, to any extent



NATURAL GAS RESOURCES OF KENTUCKY 29

until the laying of the United Fuel Gas Company's main
transmission line up the Big Sandy Valley in 1905.
Martin County increased its production rapidly until
1915, and from that date has decreased quite as steadily.




A TAYLOR COUNTY GASSER

The Green-Taylor County gas field northwest of Campbellsville is a
large field of low rock pressure. The gas "sand" is a limestone.

The Menifee County field was drilled up on an extensive
scale in 1904, and was of considerable importance until
about 1913, when depletion set in very rapidly. With



30 NATURAL GAS OF KENTUCKY

the depletion in the Meade, Martin and Menifee County
fields a certainty, public utilities corporations in Ken-
tucky were forced to make increasingly large importa-
tions of natural gas from West Virginia and Ohio.

It became apparent in 1917 and 1918 that the supply-
ing limit of the Columbia Gas and Electric Company of
West Virginia through the Kermit Station had been


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Online LibraryWillard Rouse JillsonThe conservation of natural gas in Kentucky → online text (page 1 of 8)