Okla. power line shortage hampers oil production

OKLAHOMA CITY — Companies trying to extract oil and natural gas from the Mississippi Lime formation and other fields in northwest Oklahoma and western Kansas are dealing with insufficient access to electricity.

Oil companies can use electric generators to drill and complete wells in the dense rock formation called the Mississippi Lime, but the pumps needed to suck the oil to the surface require vast amounts of power, The Oklahoman reported Sunday.

Power demand can vary widely, but one section with three oil wells and a water disposal pump can use nearly one megawatt of power, or about the amount needed to power 1,000 homes, said Steve Slawson, vice president of Slawson Exploration.

Slawson controls acreage in Logan County on the edge of the Mississippi Lime.

“One reason we bought the acreage in Logan County is because it was closer to the metro area with better infrastructure,” he told The Oklahoman. “But we still will have to spend several million dollars extending the electric lines to our wells.”

Western Farmers supplies the electricity needs of more than two-thirds of mostly rural Oklahoma.

The utility is building 135 miles of new transmission lines in northern Oklahoma to help meet some of the sudden new power needs, but The Oklahoman reported the new lines can’t be built fast enough for the oil companies.

“These are typically very rural areas that don’t have a lot of existing load,” Brian Hobbs, vice president of legal and corporate services at Western Farmers Electric Cooperative, told the newspaper. “As this development is going on, the power requirements are increasing very rapidly. It requires a significant build-out of infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City-based SandRidge Energy Inc., built its own substations and distribution lines that connect to existing transmission lines or will connect to planned transmission lines.

“Building our own electrical substations and power grids allows us to develop the Mississippian play at the lowest cost and most efficient manner,” Matt Grubb, SandRidge’s president and chief operating officer, told The Oklahoman.

SandRidge is one of the largest players in the Mississippi Lime formation and one of the first companies to develop the area.

“Reliable electricity in rural areas is key to success, as we need it to run our equipment with minimum down time and quick turnaround times enabling us to maximize production,” Grubb said.