Between the buttes and rolling terrain of the Gypsum Hills in south-central Kansas, a massive drilling rig grinds deep into the earth, seeking to reach the oil-rich Mississippian Lime formation buried some 5,000 feet deep. Just beyond the rig, Robert Murdock intently watches its progress and waxes confidently about the wealth under his feet.
"It will enrich the area in a way it never has before economically," the independent oilman says loudly, nearly shouting to be heard above the cacophony of clanging pipes and heavy equipment.
Prospectors like Murdock are punching holes across south-central Kansas, a gold rush-style hunt for oil and gas that players say could yield big returns not just for oil producers but also for the state's economy. The boom is occurring even as natural gas exploration begins to slow nationally.
In county courthouses across much of Kansas, scores of researchers comb through dusty land records stacked atop folding tables set up in hallways for them, toiling for producers and speculators alike who are scrambling to snap up millions of acres of mineral rights. Leases which just three years ago went for $30 an acre are now fetching $3,000 an acre in drilling hotspots. Awe-struck real estate agents watch incredulously as mineral rights fetch higher prices than the land itself.Page 1 of 6 | Next Page