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Oil, gas explorers search in Marion Co.

Staff writer

Anyone passing Nighthawk and 140th Rds. between March 11 and Thursday might have seen 33 square, yellow battery packs and two large trucks in a lot just off the road.

The supplies and trucks belonged to Paragon Geophysical Services, Inc., of Wichita. The company searches for oil, natural gas and geothermal reservoirs.

The 1-square-mile site, near 130th and Mustang Rds., was relatively small for a survey, said Jeremiah Newkirk, project manager for Paragon.

“Marion and Harvey County is already an area that had production, but it’s never been known as a high-density area,” he said.

Surveys vary from 160 acres to more 300 square miles, and Newkirk said he has worked on surveys as large as 250 square miles.

“You have to start somewhere,” he said. “That one-mile survey can turn into a five-mile survey. You can always go larger.”

The process is quick and noninvasive, Newkirk said. Paragon can finish testing in three days, and all supplies are removed.

The company sometimes returns to an area for more testing, so it is important to have a good relationship with residents, Newkirk said.

“We try to establish a good rapport with them,” he said. “Our goal is to work with landowners where we’re welcomed back.”

The Wichita-based company has branches in Denver and Oklahoma City. It does most of its testing in the Midwest.

“We felt like there was a large need for a local, central seismic company around Kansas,” Newkirk said.

Oil and gas operators subcontract to Paragon when looking for new sites to drill, but Paragon doesn’t handle the data once tests are over.

Their data is sent to an external geophysicist to be interpreted and used to create 2-D or 3-D maps of the subsurface, Newkirk said.

“When you’re doing 2-D, you’re looking for that fault,” he said. “Is it going east or west, that stuff. When it’s in 3-D, we’re looking for whether the faults cross.”

The ideal situation for surveying is when the ground is firm, but not frozen. In the case of Marion County, it meant starting at 3 a.m.

The vibroseis trucks (pronounced vibro-size) send vibrations through the ground that are received by temporary spikes attached to portable batteries.

There is a large variation in vibration depth, which can go anywhere from 1,000 feet to 1 mile deep, Newkirk said. Vibrations can hit 5,000 feet in 3 seconds.

While Newkirk has no land features he looks for, he identifies structures that might be affected by vibrations, from monuments to water wells, gates and fences.

Population density is not a factor in testing.

“I’ve worked with Dallas-Fort Worth’s downtown area,” he said.

Last modified March 20, 2019

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