A Brief History of Hydraulic Fracturing

Though the fracking industry has fallen on somewhat hard times over the last few years, a new Presidency and a Cabinet filled with friends of the oil and gas industry indicate that the next few years are going to be very good for the industry. Whether you love it or you don’t know all the facts, hydraulic fracturing has become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives. Some protest its proliferation; others tout its value as a means of lessening the toll that energy extraction takes on the environment. Whatever you think about the process, fracking is here to stay. What you may not realize, though, is that hydraulic fracturing has been around for more than a hundred and fifty years.

The first implementation of fracking came in 1862 when a Civil War veteran named Edward Roberts who devised a theory for superincumbent fluid tamping during the battle of Fredericksburg. Roberts wasn’t able to implement his design until four years later. The morning after the first successful test, the Titusville Morning Herald described the process:

“The torpedo, which is an iron case, containing an amount of powder varying from fifteen to twenty pounds, is lowered into the well, down to the spot, as near as can be ascertained, where it is necessary to explode it. It is then exploded by means of a cap on the torpedo, connected with the top of the shell by a wire.”

Roberts’ Torpedo, as it became known, increased the efficiency of oil drilling by 1200 percent. For nearly the next century, Roberts’ Torpedo went largely unchanged. In fact, most companies who drilled to the shale layer were more inclined to think of it as a nuisance preventing them from getting to the oil deposits. It wasn’t until 1948 that oil company Stanolind discovered the economic benefits of a predecessor to hydraulic fracturing. Using a form of jellied napalm, Stanolind figureed out how to blast grains of sand into the shale later, creating fractures that poured out oil and gas. Of course, the company wasn’t one hundred percent sure of the physics behind the process.

Then, in 1954, Shell gasoline tasked a geologist named M. King Hubbert with doing the math of hydraulic fracturing. Known as “the father of peak oil,” Hubbert had previously been one of the first people to forecast the eventual peak and decline of crude oil. Along with an assistant named David Willis, Hubbert’s work on the physics behind fracking helped revolutionize the practice by explaining exactly what was going on in an oil well.

Once engineers had some accurate idea of how fracking worked, the ideas on how to improve both the efficiency and, more importantly, the safety of the process began to flow in like a tidal wave.

Alternative Uses for Petroleum Products You May Not Have Known

Obviously, the entire world knows that the shale oil we extract through fracking and the oil we pull from the bowels of the earth are the world’s number one sources for heating our homes and fueling our cars. That gets explained to children in grade one. However, the oil products that light our homes are actually used to support and innovate an incredible number of industries you’d never expect.

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The Oil and Gas Industry Goes Green

In spite of very public comments to the contrary, the oil and gas industry is consistently making strides to ensure that mother Earth keeps spinning. Not only is the industry constantly providing brand new technological advancements that enable projects to extract shale gas responsibly, but several big name companies have actually banded together to put their money where their mouth is and fight climate change.

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Advances in Lateral Fracking May Mean Fewer Wells and Larger Profits

In their effort to increase profit while reducing the strain on the environment, oil and gas companies are constantly looking for innovative ways to extract shale from the Earth. Depending on who you ask, the newest advancements for obtaining that shale differ greatly. Chesapeake Energy, for example, is practicing something called, “monster fracking” which could potentially boost well output 70 percent.

In Colorado, though, they’re hedging their bets on a new advancement in lateral fracking that may help reduce the number of standing wells while increasing the output of each location. The process has already been adopted by several companies like Denver-based SM Energy Company, Pioneer Natural Resources, and, funnily enough, Chesapeake Energy.

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Health Concerns Continue to Dwindle with Latest Statement from CO Chief Medical Officer

Weld County, Colorado produces 90 percent of the state’s oil. Despite all of this oil production, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has not seen any indication that the general health of this community has been affected by this work.

“I’m not going to tell anybody to go drink a pint of liquid petroleum or stand over an active well site and wave the fumes in to breath them in,” executive director and chief medical officer for the health department, Dr. Larry Wolk explained. “Nobody would argue that this stuff isn’t toxic, but it’s all about exposure to toxins, and we don’t see anything to be concerned with at this point in time.”

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