Hydraulic Fracturing History

This is a guest post by Faith Munsell, 

Meeting the energy needs of our planet’s seven billion people while protecting the environment at the same time is a balancing act.

Hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking,” or “fracing”) was somewhat uncommon until 2003, when energy companies broadened natural gas exploration to shale formations in West Virginia, Texas, Utah, Maryland, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania.

The Environmental Protection Agency ruled in 2004 that hydraulic fracturing was not threatening to water supplies, and not long after, the Bush administration excluded the practice from the Safe Water Drinking Act.

However, the history of fracing can be tracked all the way back to the American Civil War era. Col. Edward A.L. Roberts, wounded on a Virginia battlefield, saw what he would later come to realize was the shale fracturing process. As a confederate artillery barrage railed a neighboring canal, Roberts lay bleeding, but inspirited.

Soon, he would patent the “Roberts torpedo.” His procedure first involved lowering a torpedo into a well filled with water. Then, it would be launched down into the strata, with the water preventing the explosion from moving upwards. Those rocks held natural gas that would be inaccessible without the concentrated blast.

Roberts ably combined the scientific advancements of 1860s America with his battle prowess. His invention expanded well production by 1200 percent after just a week of action, and Roberts became very wealthy as time went on.

More recently, the marriage of horizontal drilling (an immensely complex process that uses sensors to hit microscopic targets that are thousands of miles away) and hydraulic fracturing allows for the drillers to “frack” over 5000 feet of rock.

It’s an engineering prodigy, one that has motivated farmers and ranchers to lease out their land to gas and oil businesses. These firms pay a premium to access the rocks that are thousands of feet underneath the surface. Through the use slant, or horizontal, drilling, the farmland itself is hardly disrupted.

Just as ranchers in Texas became multimillionaire oilmen during the early 20th century, New York farmers have come to be the beneficiaries of a new era of oil profits. Still, New York has some of the most rigid regulations on hydraulic fracturing, and other states are beginning to do the same.

New jobs come with these new wells from engineering to construction. They decrease our reliance on foreign oil, and allow families the opportunity to live the American dream. But the balancing act between environmental stewardship and energy production goes on, and will likely continue for some time. For more information on hydraulic fracturing, contact Keystone Energy Tools today.


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