Fracking History

Fracking History

Fracking History is courtesy of Wikipedia and is to be used for educational purposes only.

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Fracturing as a method to stimulate shallow, hard rock oil wells dates back to the 1860s. Soon after the first commercial U.S. oil well in 1859, dynamite or nitroglycerin detonations were used to increase oil and natural gas production from petroleum bearing formations. On April 25, 1865, Civil War veteran Col. Edward A. L. Roberts received the first of his many patents for an “exploding torpedo.”[1] It was employed by oil producers in the US states of Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky, and West Virginia using liquid and also, later, solidified nitroglycerin. Later still the same method was applied to water and gas wells. Stimulation of wells with acid, in stead of explosive fluids, was introduced in the 1930s. Due to acid etching, fractures would not close completely resulting in further productivity increase.[2]

Oil and gas wells

The relationship between well performance and treatment pressures was studied by Floyd Farris of Stanolind Oil and Gas Corporation. This study was the basis of the first hydraulic fracturing experiment, conducted in 1947 at the Hugoton gas field in Grant County of southwestern Kansas by Stanolind.[2][3] For the well treatment, 1,000 US gallons (3,800 l; 830 imp gal) of gelled gasoline (essentially napalm) and sand from the Arkansas River was injected into the gas-producing limestone formation at 2,400 feet (730 m). The experiment was not very successful as deliverability of the well did not change appreciably. The process was further described by J.B. Clark of Stanolind in his paper published in 1948. A patent on this process was issued in 1949 and exclusive license was granted to the Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company. On March 17, 1949, Halliburton performed the first two commercial hydraulic fracturing treatments in Stephens County, Oklahoma, and Archer County, Texas.[3] Since then, hydraulic fracturing has been used to stimulate approximately one million oil and gas wells[4] in various geologic regimes with good success.

In contrast with large-scale hydraulic fracturing used in low-permeability formations, small hydraulic fracturing treatments are commonly used in high-permeability formations to remedy skin[clarification needed] damage at the rock-borehole interface. In such cases the fracturing may extend only a few feet from the borehole.[5]


In the Soviet Union, the first hydraulic proppant fracturing was carried out in 1952. Other countries in Europe and Northern Africa subsequently employed hydraulic fracturing techniques including Norway, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Tunisia, and Algeria.[6]

Massive fracturingfracking history

Massive hydraulic fracturing (also known as high-volume hydraulic fracturing) is a technique first applied by Pan American Petroleum in Stephens County, Oklahoma, USA in 1968. The definition of massive hydraulic fracturing varies somewhat, but is generally reference to treatments injecting greater than about 150 short tons, or approximately 300,000 pounds (136 metric tonnes), of proppant.[7]

American geologists became increasingly aware that there were huge volumes of gas-saturated sandstones with permeability too low (generally less than 0.1 millidarcy) to recover the gas economically.[7] Starting in 1973, massive hydraulic fracturing was used in thousands of gas wells in the San Juan Basin, Denver Basin,[8] the Piceance Basin,[9] and the Green River Basin, and in other hard rock formations of the western US. Other tight sandstone wells in the US made economically viable by massive hydraulic fracturing were in the Clinton-Medina Sandstone, and Cotton Valley Sandstone.[7]

Massive hydraulic fracturing quickly spread in the late 1970s to western Canada, Rotliegend and Carboniferous gas-bearing sandstones in Germany, Netherlands (onshore and offshore gas fields), and the United Kingdom in the North Sea.[6]

Horizontal oil or gas wells were unusual until the late 1980s. Then, operators in Texas began completing thousands of oil wells by drilling horizontally in the Austin Chalk, and giving massive slickwater hydraulic fracturing treatments to the wellbores. Horizontal wells proved much more effective than vertical wells in producing oil from tight chalk;[10] shale runs horizontally, so a horizontal well reaches much more of the resource.[11] The first horizontal well was drilled in the Barnett Shale in 1991[11] and slickwater fluids were introduced in 1996.[11]

Shalesfracking history

Due to shale’s high porosity and low permeability, technological research, development and demonstration were necessary before hydraulic fracturing accepted for commercial application to shale gas deposits. In 1976, the United States government started the Eastern Gas Shales Project, a set of dozens of public-private hydraulic fracturing demonstration projects.[12] During the same period, the Gas Research Institute, a gas industry research consortium, received approval for research and funding from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.[13]

In 1997, taking the slickwater fracturing technique used in East Texas by Union Pacific Resources (now part of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation), Mitchell Energy (now part of Devon Energy), learned how to use the technique in the Barnett Shale of north Texas. This made shale gas extraction widely economical.[14][15][16] George P. Mitchell has been called the “father of fracking” because of his role in applying it in shales.[17]

As of 2013, massive hydraulic fracturing is being applied on a commercial scale to shales in the United States, Canada, and China. Several countries are planning to use hydraulic fracturing.[18][19][20]

  2. “Acid fracturing”
  3. Montgomery, Carl T.; Smith, Michael B. (December 2010). “Hydraulic fracturing. History of an enduring technology” (PDF). JPT Online (Society of Petroleum Engineers): 26–41. Retrieved 13 May 2012.
  4. Energy Institute (February 2012) (PDF). Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development (Report). University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  5. A. J. Stark, A. Settari, J. R. Jones, Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing of High Permeability Gas Wells to Reduce Non-darcy Skin Effects, Petroleum Society of Canada, Annual Technical Meeting, Jun 8 – 10, 1998, Calgary, Alberta.[dead link]
  6. Mader, Detlef (1989). Hydraulic Proppant Fracturing and Gravel Packing. Elsevier. pp. 173–174; 202. ISBN 9780444873521.
  7. Ben E. Law and Charles W. Spencer, 1993, “Gas in tight reservoirs-an emerging major source of energy,” in David G. Howell (ed.), The Future of Energy Gasses, US Geological Survey, Professional Paper 1570, p.233-252.
  8. C.R. Fast, G.B. Holman, and R. J. Covlin, “The application of massive hydraulic fracturing to the tight Muddy ‘J’ Formation, Wattenberg Field, Colorado,” in Harry K. Veal, (ed.), Exploration Frontiers of the Central and Southern Rockies (Denver: Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists, 1977) 293-300.
  9. Robert Chancellor, “Mesaverde hydraulic fracture stimulation, northern Piceance Basin – progress report,” in Harry K. Veal, (ed.), Exploration Frontiers of the Central and Southern Rockies (Denver: Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists, 1977) 285-291.
  10. C.E Bell and others, Effective diverting in horizontal wells in the Austin Chalk, Society of Petroleum Engineers conference paper, 1993.[dead link]
  11. Robbins K. (2013). Awakening the Slumbering Giant: How Horizontal Drilling Technology Brought the Endangered Species Act to Bear on Hydraulic Fracturing. Case Western Reserve Law Review.
  12. US Dept. of Energy, How is shale gas produced?, Apr. 2013.
  13. United States National Research Council, Committee to Review the Gas Research Institute’s Research, Development and Demonstration Program, Gas Research Institute (1989). A review of the management of the Gas Research Institute. National Academies. p. ?.
  14. “US Government Role in Shale Gas Fracking: An Overview”
  15. SPE production & operations 20. Society of Petroleum Engineers. 2005. p. 87.
  16. The Breakthrough Institute. Interview with Dan Steward, former Mitchell Energy Vice President. December 2011.
  17. Zuckerman, Gregory. “How fracking billionaires built their empires”. Quartz. The Atlantic Media Company. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  18. Wasley, Andrew (1 March 2013) On the frontline of Poland’s fracking rush The Guardian, Retrieved 3 March 2013
  19. (7 August 2012) JKX Awards Fracking Contract for Ukrainian Prospect Natural Gas Europe, Retrieved 3 March 2013
  20. (18 February 2013) Turkey’s shale gas hopes draw growing interest Reuters, Retrieved 3 March 2013