Natural Resources Research

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 277–292 | Cite as

H2-rich and Hydrocarbon Gas Recovered in a Deep Precambrian Well in Northeastern Kansas

  • K. David NewellEmail author
  • John H. Doveton
  • Daniel F. Merriam
  • Barbara Sherwood Lollar
  • William M. Waggoner
  • L. Michael Magnuson


In late 2005 and early 2006, the WTW Operating, LLC (W.T.W. Oil Co., Inc.) #1 Wilson well (T.D. = 5772 ft; 1759.3 m) was drilled for 1826 ft (556.6 m) into Precambrian basement underlying the Forest City Basin in northeastern Kansas. Approximately 4500 of the 380,000 wells drilled in Kansas penetrate Precambrian basement. Except for two previous wells drilled into the arkoses and basalts of the 1.1-Ga Midcontinent Rift and another well drilled in 1929 in basement on the Nemaha Uplift east of the Midcontinent Rift, this well represents the deepest penetration into basement rocks in the state to date. Granite is the typical lithology observed in wells that penetrate the Precambrian in the northern Midcontinent. Although no cores were taken to definitively identify lithologies, well cuttings and petrophysical logs indicate that this well encountered basement metamorphic rocks consisting of schist, gneiss, and amphibolitic gneiss, all cut by aplite dikes.

The well was cased and perforated in the Precambrian, and then acidized. After several days of swabbing operations, the well produced shows of low-Btu gas, dominated by the non-flammable component gases of nitrogen (20%), carbon dioxide (43%), and helium (1%). Combustible components include methane (26%), hydrogen (10%), and higher molecular-weight hydrocarbons (1%). Although Coveney and others [Am. Assoc. Petroleum Geologists Bull., v. 71, no, 1, p. 39–48, 1987] identified H2-rich gas in two wells located close to the Midcontinent Rift in eastern Kansas, this study indicates that high levels of H2 may be a more widespread phenomenon than previously thought. Unlike previous results, the gases in this study have a significant component of hydrocarbon gas, as well as H2, N2, and CO2. Although redox reactions between iron-bearing minerals and groundwater are a possible source of H2 in the Precambrian basement rocks, the hydrocarbon gas does not exhibit the characteristics typically associated with proposed abiogenic hydrocarbon gases from Precambrian Shield sites in Canada, Finland, and South Africa. Compositional and isotopic signatures for gas from the #1 Wilson well are consistent with a predominantly thermogenic origin, with possible mixing with a component of microbial gas. Given the geologic history of uplift and rifting this region, and the major fracture systems present in the basement, this hydrocarbon gas likely migrated from source rocks and reservoirs in the overlying Paleozoic sediments and is not evidence for abiogenic hydrocarbons generated in situ in the Precambrian basement.


Forest City Basin low Btu gas Precambrian metamorphics thermogenic vs. abiogenic gas 



We would like to thank Frank Benson of WTW Operating Company, LLC for sharing information with us on the well. Although his contributions also were made as an author of this manuscript, the co-authors of Bill Waggoner (geologist at W.T.W. Oil Company) thank him for access to the wellsite and to other data before, during, and after the drilling of the well. Randy Van Schmus of the University of Kansas identified and confirmed the Precambrian rock identifications and provided information on the Precambrian of Kansas. We thank Kansas Geological Survey members Lynn Watney for information on the post-1983 Precambrian wells and Dana Adkins-Heljeson for sorting and printing the list from the KGS database. Pieter Berendsen and Tim Carr read a preliminary version of the manuscript and offered helpful comments and suggestions. We would like to thank P. Acker for producing the graphics.


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Copyright information

© International Association for Mathematical Geology 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. David Newell
    • 1
    Email author
  • John H. Doveton
    • 1
  • Daniel F. Merriam
    • 1
  • Barbara Sherwood Lollar
    • 2
  • William M. Waggoner
    • 3
  • L. Michael Magnuson
    • 1
  1. 1.Kansas Geological SurveyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.WTW Oil Co., Inc.IrvingUSA

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