Hydraulic Fracking: A Boon or Bane to the US

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Hydraulic Fracking: A Boon or Bane to the US

The first question when hearing hydraulic fracking, it pops the question for what exactly is it? Hydraulic fracking (fracturing) is a controversial oil and gas extraction technique developed in the late 1940s to gain access to fossil energy deposits previously inaccessible to drilling operations. In the early 2000s, energy companies began combining horizontal (or directional) drilling with hydraulic fracturing to tap these reserves. The process involves drilling horizontally through a rock layer and injecting a pressurized mixture of water, sand, and other chemicals that fractures the rock and facilitates the flow of oil and gas.

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These combined methods have allowed for expanded oil/gas development in shale and other formations in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia, and elsewhere. The rapid expansion of fracking is projected to make the U.S. a net exporter of natural gas in the coming years and potentially the world’s largest oil producer by 2018-20. Shale gas, which currently accounts for one-fourth of the nation’s natural gas production, is projected to increase to half by 2035.

Tracing back its history in the United States of America can be seen since 1862. It was during the battle of Fredericksburg VA., where civil war veteran Col. Edward A.L. Roberts saw what could be accomplished when firing explosive artillery into a narrow canal that obstructed the battlefield. This was described as superincumbent fluid tamping.

On April 26th, 1865, Edward Roberts received his 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 extraction method was implemented by packing a torpedo in an iron case that contained 15-20 pounds of powder. The case was then lowered into the oil well, at a spot closest to the oil. From there, they would explode the torpedo by connecting the top of the shell with wire to the surface, and then filling the borehole with water

This invention increased oil production by 1200 percent from certain wells within a week of being implemented. This also 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.

Even though the birth of fracking began in the 1860s, the birth of modern day hydraulic fracturing began in the 1940s. In 1947, Floyd Farris of Stanolind Oil and Gas began a study on the relationship between oil and gas production output, and the amount of pressurized treatment being used on each well. This study lead to the first experiment of hydraulic fracturing, which occurred at the Hugoton gas field, located in Grant county, Kansas in 1947.

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