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The Real History Of Fracking: Oil, Bombs And Civil War

Over the past twenty years, the most important and most exciting development in the United States energy sector has been hydraulic fracturing, also referred to as fracking.

This controversial drilling technique made it possible for producers to extract oil and natural gas from shale rock, a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock, composed of mud that is a mix of flakes of clay and tiny fragments of other minerals. This revelation sparked a veritable boom in U.S. crude production.

In fact, the development was so significant, it made it possible for the U.S. to become the world's largest oil and gas producer. And many speculate that it could even be key in America's energy independence in the coming years.

While there are plenty of misconceptions that surround this modern technology (it poisonous substances the drinking water, or it creates cancer), the largest is that it's actually a recent innovation.

The Real History Of Fracking

Surprisingly, fracking can be traced back to 1862. It was during the battle of Fredericksburg VA., where Colonel Edward A.L. Roberts discovered something incredible when firing explosive artillery into a narrow canal that was blocking the battleground. The breakthrough was then described as 'superincumbent fluid tamping.'

On April 26, 1865, Edward Roberts obtained his very first patent, for an “Improvement” in exploding torpedoes in artesian wells. In November of 1866, Edward Roberts was awarded patient number 59,936, known as the “Exploding Torpedo.”

This removal method was executed by packing a torpedo in an iron case that contained 15-20 pounds of powder. The case was then dropped into an oil well, at a spot nearest to the oil. From there, they would blow up the torpedo by linking the top of the covering with wire to the surface area and then loading the borehole with water.

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This creation boosted oil production by 1200 percent from certain wells within a week. Additionally, this new type of extraction led to the founding of Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company, which charged $100-$200 dollars per rocket, plus a royalty of 1/15 of the profits generated from the product.

The Birth Of Modern Fracking 

The very first improvement on fracking didn't occur until the 1930s, when drillers used a non-explosive liquid substitute called acid, instead of nitroglycerin. This innovation made wells much more resistant to closing, boosting productivity significantly.

Although fracking was technically born in the 1860s, the birth of modern hydraulic fracturing began almost 90 years later. In 1947, Floyd Farris of Stanolind Oil and Gas began to study the relationship between oil and gas production output, and the amount of pressurized treatment being used on each well.

This research resulted in the first experiment involving hydraulic fracturing, which occurred in Kansas in 1947. In this trial, 1,000 gallons of gelled gasoline and sand were injected into a gas-producing limestone formation with a deepness of 2,400 feet. This was then followed by an injection of a gel breaker. While this experiment failed to produce a significant production increase, it did mark the beginning of what is now known as fracking.

Despite the failure in the Kansa experiment, the research proceeded. On March 17, 1949, Halliburton performed two commercial experiments; one in Oklahoma and one more in Texas. These outcomes were far more successful.

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After achieving speculative success in 1949, the fracking business began to explode. In the 1960s, Pan American Petroleum started to use this drilling method in Stephens area, Oklahoma. And in the 1970s, fracking began to take off in the Piceance Basin, the San Juan Basin, the Denver Basin, and the Green River Container.

This extensive use even garnered the interest of President Gerald Ford. In his 1975 State of the Union address, President Ford promoted the advancement of shale oil sources as part of his overall energy plan to reduce foreign oil imports

Welcome The Shale Oil Boom

The fracking revolution is nothing new. It has been around for over a century now. But that doesn't mean it's finished growing. Like the mobile phone, computer, and car, it's been improved upon and reimagined many times over. The question remains: why did this shale oil boom happen so long after the innovation was created?

The correlation of these two charts, which show production trends dating back to the 1990s and price trends dating back to 2000, will help explain why.

Energy Information Agency (EIA)


It turns out, the biggest catalyst driving the shale boom was a rise in oil prices. If it weren't for higher prices, the capital investment required in the oil and gas sector, wouldn't have ever occurred, and United States oil production would undoubtedly have remained in decline.

In fact, even some of the world's five biggest oil companies have since flooded into shale hotspots around the country.  

By John Manfreda of Oilprice.com

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John Manfreda

John majored in Pre-Law at Frosburg State Universtiy and received his MBA at Trinity University. He has co-authored The Petro Profit report and dividend stock… More

Comments

  • David Kaplan - 13th Apr 2015 at 9:01pm:
    The technological breakthrough was horizontal drilling.
  • John Manfreda - 13th Apr 2015 at 9:41pm:
    Horizontal drilling was created around the 1980's.

    http://www.eia.gov/pub/oil_gas/natural_gas/analysis_publications/drilling_sideways_well_technology/pdf/tr0565.pdf
  • macrol - 14th Apr 2015 at 8:20am:
    Equating civ war fracking with modern Horizontal fracking technology is like equating a 22 with an AK47. New fracking operations are massive, environmentally destructive and require millions of gallons of water and thousands of gallons of dangerous chemicals. The resulting concoction mixes with naturally occurring brine from deep under the ground to produce a truly deadly cocktail that finds its way into drinking water and rivers and streams. That's why the states of Vt and NY have banned the process and why the state of MD legislature has recently voted to ban the process.
  • Ace814 - 14th Apr 2015 at 12:30pm:
    macrol,

    They didn't equate fracking then to fracking now, they are simply explaining the history of hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is NOT causing the problems, it's the disposing of waste water in deep disposal wells that has recently been seen as a possible issue. The funny thing is, the eviron"mental" folks love to complain and try to halt progress but the United States is the cleanest and safest place on the planet. If they truly hated what they perceive to be destruction of the planet, why not go to places overseas where there is no EPA or regulations of any kind and protest there? It's because they can drive to protest in their gas powered cars or email their representatives from the comfort of their heated and air conditioned homes that use electricity provided by natural gas powered stations. The only thing banning fracking will do is increase the price of oil and gas, which will benefit the oil & gas companies who will then pass the extra cost of finding oil and gas on to the consumer. Talk about the ultimate backfire!
  • John Manfreda - 14th Apr 2015 at 12:38pm:
    There's no proof that fracking is dangerous or environmentally damaging. If you clicked here

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/landmark-fracking-study-finds-no-160237470.html

    http://energyindepth.org/national/new-federal-study-fracking-did-not-pollute-groundwater/

    http://theenergycollective.com/ecsjessica/214971/facts-fracking-three-things-you-need-know

    You would see those things aren't necessarily true
  • Gary - 14th Apr 2015 at 12:48pm:
    Good background material. A few of comments:
    1) Please leave the "k" out of "fracing". While the "k" version may have become popular (especially in the know-nothing media), the origin of "frack" came from the TV series Battlestar Galactica and is a slang phrase for sexual activity and all of the popular variations, adjectives and adverbs. Picky, I know, but let's be as correct as possible. If you don't believe me, check the Urban Dictionary website.
    2) Give George Mitchell's COMPANY credit, but give the real credit to engineers like Nick Steinsberger that actually developed the techniques. Nick is like a fracing demigod in the industry.
    3) Fracing is safer than most industrial activities, and the states that have banned it have done so without legitimate science and under the influence of environmental wackos. "macrol" and his buddies can ride horses to work, at least until we're up to our armpits in horse manure.
  • macrol - 15th Apr 2015 at 8:00am:
    My point stands. There have been thousands of serious chemical and waste water spills associated with the frack process. YES, many spills have ended up in drinking water sources. The process is accompanied by 24/7 truck traffic, high levels of noise, air pollution and frequent water pollution. The process can also expose workers and citizens to radon and other occurring radiation. The Frack process does not take place in a controlled environment. In the real world of fracking, serious environmental accidents can and do occur quite frequently.

    Again, the states of MD, VT, NY and many other countries have voted to ban the process for good reason. Also , frack pipelines have frequently ruptured, exploded and caught fire. Fracking significantly degrades the surface environment in and around frack sites.

    Try living near a site. You will sing a different tune. And oh yea, good luck selling or insuring your home. Insurance companies have done their research and want nothing to do with this profoundly dangerous process.
  • Erick - 17th Apr 2015 at 6:36am:
    Macrol

    you are a truly ignorant human. Also, you dont like fracing? Try living your life without using anything related to petroleum. You probably enjoy driving your car, turning on your heat and A\C. Unless you live "off" the grid and ride a bicycle, you should never open your mouth and spew out your ignorance
  • David in Dakota - 18th Apr 2015 at 6:48pm:
    For all the scary stories to be revealed for just plain goofy...

    How about if someone who has worked in frac would personally inform that the safety and environmental precautions on site are quite thorough.
    No actually, we didn't have terrible spills of rampant toxicity.
    Ha...the practical concern is that no one wants to irritate the company man!

    A little gel, maybe some salt, but you don't make money by wasting chemical on the ground. It has already been documented many times that everything which goes into the frac is also found in your tummy, under your kitchen sink, on your laundry shelf, in your car, on your lawn as fertilizer, or in your ice cream and cake frosting. Shall we freak out because unsupervised children theoretically have access to Drano? Surely! Do you know how dastardly Bleach is?
    Have you heard that brick masons clean their finished work with Muriatic Acid?
    Oh me oh my...that's what your stomach uses to digest your meal!
    I'm laughing of course...the lying fright is so stupid as to be bizarre.

    There is a waste fluid vessel called "flat tank" or "pit" on every site,
    and a vacuum truck can be ordered in quickly to suck up any spill.
    The HSE (Health, Safety and Environmental) Nazi is so stern out there that no one bothers to not be healthy, safe and tidy.
    We had a man fired for peeing behind a truck tire...and getting caught!

    We did not even leave a water bottle behind on the site...every site was cleaner than when we arrived...even every last piece of paper was picked up.

    The sheer scale of horsepower is awe inspiring.
    We push 30 barrel/minute down a 3.5 inch pipe as far as 4 miles away at a typical pressure of 7,000 psi.
    Yep, the ground rumbles when four 2,000 hp pump engines run full bore, but when it's all over the well site is totally still again.

    We open a zone at around 4,500 psi with the popoff set at 9,000 psi, with most of the zone going along flat lined at 7,000
    It is amazing to say the least...but the scare factor is simply stupid.

    All you need to do in order to be an informed talker is hire on with a frac company.
    Halliburton, Schlumberger, CalFrac, Sanjel or a host of small operators.
    I spent Winter 2012 as what I count an adventure now. Not real eager to go back, but it's kind of bragging rights to say, Yep...I was out there in the freezing dark.

    As for the terrible things that supposedly happen at a salt water disposal well, you can't even hear the pump running from twenty feet outside the shed. Just walked through one this week. The water with all those horribly dangerous chemicals is pumped 5,000 ft below the surface, while fresh water is generally defined as above 3,000 ft.
    It's simply not possible for frac fluid at 10,000 ft to ever influence ground water, nor is it possible from a disposal well at even 5,000 ft.
    I repeat...IMPOSSIBLE!

    Odd thing is...I'd have no big problem drinking a glass of frac fluid, although it's going to be gritty with all that sand. The amount and the nature of the chemicals are quite harmless to the body in those concentrations. So how exactly is it supposed to be a problem even if it was pumped directly into ground water?

    The State of North Dakota spent $400,000 on a study comparing the various methods of settling dust on dirt roads. Guess what the right answer was?
    Production Water! The deadly terrible wretched stuff that is pumped down disposal wells. Yep...even though it is high in salt content, everyone commence to shudder the thought of Sodium Chloride killing a little grass on the road shoulder...it was the most effective method. Other materials that cost a lot of money were not as effective as plain old Production Water.

    Care to guess how states bordering North Dakota melt ice off their roads?
    Yes Sir...Sodium Chloride poisoning grass on the roadside of thousands of miles...horrors!
    Ha...Dakota folk assume you need to know how to drive on frozen highways...it's a hazard of Winter, so get used to it, Don't ya know.
  • Smitty - 19th Feb 2016 at 10:34am:
    Fracking took the air out of Isis! Enough said.
  • david french - 3rd Mar 2016 at 10:14am:
    Actually a lot of the advances in modern EOR (enhanced oil recovery) and fracking chemicals occurred in the 1970's , including the use of friction reducing Polyacrylamides. If you want a detailed study on it...give a yell. 125 page confidential report. Sept 1975 James C. French MA-Chem, MBA, American Cyanamid.
  • Rand - 21st Apr 2016 at 11:45am:
    Actually there has been many problems that involve fracking and I add that the Fracking company adds more than 7 million gallons of FRESH water each fracture, into the pipe to Frack the water out of the ground and suck it up, what a waste of water that we could use. Scientific research says that the fracking fluid actually DOES get into neighboring houses, and cities and pollute there well water, i mean you can actually set your faucet water on fire! There is proof, because I don't know anyone who would want to on purpose but gas into there well to show that they can light there water on fire, but that there is videos that show that they can literally set there water on fire because of the oil that is getting into the wells. I have been researching this problem for a while and there is 50%-70% of fracking fluid still left in the ground, and of that fracking fluid that is contaminating peoples water, there is 600 chemicals,many carcinogens and toxins that are in the water, and to continue my claim, there is about 40,000 chemicals during the fracture that are in the frack water.so I would say 40,000 chemicals that are polluting wells and cities
  • Bruce pazooter Clark - 9th Sep 2018 at 1:53pm:
    Fracking was prevalent in north-central Ohio state in 1977. I was there with the big Haliburton fracking trucks.
  • Amos Atoll - 29th May 2019 at 4:54pm:
    I surely wouldn't call Hydraulic Fracturing a drilling technique. The drilling rig was gone by the time I got to the well with the Frack crew.
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