Natural Gas Museum
A small museum in western Kansas sits above a giant natural gas field.
In far southwestern Kansas, the Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton opened on May 16, 1961. It educates visitors about one of the largest natural gas fields in North America.
Every year Hugoton – the state’s “natural gas capital” – hosts as an annual “Gas Capital Car Show & Rod Run” that takes place on the fourth Saturday in August.
The community’s museum, founded by Gladys Renfro, curator, and a few dedicated volunteers, serves “as a memento of the Hugoton gas field and the progressive development of Stevens County.”
The 14-county Kansas gas field, part of a larger group extending 8,500 square miles into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, has produced more than 29 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, notes the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS).
About 11,000 wells produce both oil and gas in the Kansas portion of the Hugoton area – and thousands of miles of pipeline carry Hugoton gas throughout the United States.
“Hugoton production is a major source of natural gas and oil for the state and the nation,” KGS says, adding that the economic value produced in 14 counties of southwest Kansas exceeds 50 percent of all gas and oil produced in the state. “The major gas fields of this area have produced enough gas to supply every household in Kansas for 364 years.”
Although natural gas had been discovered as early as 1922, near Liberal, Kansas, that well did not produce oil – so it was considered of little value and remained unused for several years, explains KGS.
“In 1927, gas was discovered at the Independent Oil and Gas Company’s Crawford No. 1, about 2,600 feet below the surface southwest of Hugoton,” says KGS. In 1929, Argus Pipe Line Company started construction of a pipeline to furnish gas to Dodge City.
Beginning in the 1930s, Phillips Petroleum Company produced Hugoton natural gas from 3,000 feet deep in Texas County, Oklahoma.
“This field with subsequent deeper discoveries of oil and gas has provided landowners with royalty revenue and cheap fuel,” explains an historic marker in a Guymon, Oklahoma, park.
“There are nearly 8,000 producing oil or gas wells in Texas County today,” the historic marker notes. “For 75 years, the county has been one of the largest sources of revenue for the state of Oklahoma through taxes on oil and gas production.”
The Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum, 905 S. Adams Street in Hugoton, today includes early oil patch equipment, restored buildings – including an historic Santa Fe Hugoton Train Depot – an 1887 school house and home, a grocery store, and a barber shop. A natural gas well drilled in 1945 is still producing at the museum.
A 2004 Hugoton Asset Management Project brought together KGS and eight industry partners in the Hugoton field – to build a “knowledge and technical base required for intelligent stewardship, identification of new opportunities, and continued improvement in recovery strategies.”
Editor’s Note – Natural gas shale discoveries (and advanced production technologies) have overtaken the Hugoton’s once dominant role. In 2009, the Hugoton gas area produced 328 billion cubic feet of natural gas, making it the ninth largest source of gas in America. Significant natural gas shale discoveries in the Fayetteville, Arkansas, region (2004) and Haynesville, Louisiana, region (2008) have estimated production volumes of 517 billion cubic feet and 204 billion cubic feet respectively.
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