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November 26, 2012

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.

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 said. “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 new lines can’t be built fast enough for the oil companies.

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