Natural gas, a phenomenon of the environmental world, has impacted ancient civilizations which led to the development of hydraulic fracturing. The early Greek civilizations worshiped ignited natural gas geysers, while the Chinese used natural gas in water purification. It was not until the 19th century that natural gas became a staple fuel source. “In 1821…William Hart” noticed “gas bubbles rising to the surface of a creek, [he] dug a 27-foot well to obtain a larger flow of gas to the surface” (Naturalgas). From Harts discovery, natural gas not only became a staple fuel source, but also a source of monetary profit. In the 19th century, digging was the only way of attaining natural gas, thus individuals began brainstorming for methods of quick extraction. Origins of “fracturing can be traced to the 1860s when liquid nitroglycerin was used to stimulate…well ‘shooting’” (SPE). The idea of shooting is to have underground formations increase the initial flow and recovery of oil by having the underground formation shoot rubble out of the well.

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In 1948, Floyd Farris of the Stanolind Oil and Gas Corporation conducted methods of natural gas extraction by analyzing the formation breakdown’ during acidizing, and water and chemical injections of his own experiments. Farris’ first experiment, “Hydrafrac…was performed in …Grant County, Kansas” where he injected “1,000 [gallons] of …thickened gasoline…followed by a gel breaker, to stimulate a gas producing limestone formation at 2,400 [feet]” (SPE). Farris developed Hydrafac with the concept that gas flow increases when there are more gaps in the rock formation. Hydrafrac had high expectations; however, the method only marginally increased the production of natural gas. Nonetheless, Farris continued experimenting resulting in rising production rates and declining costs.

Within a year, Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company developed an interest in Ferris’ Hydrafrac, believing that it would be a start to a booming industry. Hydrafrac was patented in 1949, in which “Halliburton Oil Well Cementing [Company] was granted an “exclusive license to use the new technology” (Fracking Controversy). Figure 1, is a depiction of the development and the boom of the hydraulic fracturing related to Halliburton’s exclusive license around the 1950s. The Railroad Commission of Texas recorded the natural gas producing wells in Texas, in which the graph shows a trend that fracking began to grow exponentially, except during the Great Depression in which the economy could not support production. “Halliburton treated 332 wells, increased productivity by 75 percent… and by the mid-1950’s Halliburton was fracturing 3,000 wells a month” (Fracking Controversy). This was the start to a booming industry and the beginning of a public health issue caused by hydraulic fracturing.

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References:

Naturalgas: http://naturalgas.org/overview/history/
SPE: http://www.ourenergypolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Hydraulic.pdf
Fracking Controversy: McGlynn, Daniel. “The CQ Researcher Online.” CQ Researcher by CQ Press. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2013.