Is it fracking or fracing?

Hydraulic fracturing has become a hotbed of controversy, but so has its nickname — fracking.

But the origin of the “fracking” moniker is far more innocuous than its current use in certain circles, as a kind of expletive. Battlestar Galactica used “fracking” as a surrogate for the more popular F-word.

But before it made national headlines, sparked rallies or was used in television shows, it went by a different name. Or, more accurately, a different spelling:

“Fracing.” One C. No K.

A few folks, seeking to clarify the pronunciation, used “fraccing.” Two Cs. No K.

Barnett Shale-based blogger and activist Sharon Wilson recently set out to track down the founder of “fracking.” Wilson eventually fingered Lisa Sumi as the originator of the K-based spelling. In 2004, Sumi joined Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project. She took on a research report about the then-relatively unrenowned method for extracting oil and natural gas.

The documents she read about hydraulic fracturing shortened the term to “fracing.”

“In my own head, I immediately started spelling it with a K,” she said. “It rhymed with cracking. For me it was purely grammatical.”

Sumi said it took her two years to convince the folks at Earthworks to add a K to their spelling of the term. She had no idea the K would become a political powder keg.

As public awareness of hydrofracturing has gained popularity, so has that alternate spelling and the political rancor around the K.

Stalwarts cling to tradition, saying “fracking” sounds too much like a curse word and has been made into the rallying cry of environmentalist opponents. But many in the oil and gas industry have accepted linguistic authority and switched spellings.

Meanwhile, the public has developed a clear preference. A Google search for “fracking” turns up more than 8 million results, even more than “hydraulic fracturing,” which turns up 2.2 million.

Not only does “fracing” fall far behind, with just 628,000 results. Google insists you’ve misspelled your search:

“Did you mean: fracking?”

17 Comments

  1. “Fracing” comes from the contraction of the word fracturing and should actually have an apostrophy – “frac’ing.” Presumably the apostrophy was dropped for convenience in typing. I dispise the use of “fracking” a made-up word.

    #1
  2. CaptSternn

    Somebody finally got the BattleStar Gallactica reference. That’s why I have to grin whenever I see a headline on this subject, especially the recent editorial that was titled, “Let’s get fracking right (it’s important)”. Priceless.

    #2
  3. Trail_Tramp

    It’s fracing…or as we say in West Texas frac’n.

    #3
  4. Indianpaintbrush

    ““In my own head, I immediately started spelling it with a K,” she said. “It rhymed with cracking. For me it was purely grammatical.”
    ————————-
    Actually, as RegPE noted…. it is far from grammatically correct. We should be using ” fracturing.”

    #4
  5. We’ve worked in North Texas, South Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Dakota, and New York. I. gotta tell you, NY was the worst–People up there in the rural counties object to O&G development the most. Yet they are the ones with the fewest opportunities for jobs, education, and community growth.

    #5
  6. flash

    Aren’t they using the Sal Alinsky method here by demonizing an old boring completion method by making it sound like a curse word? Most of use here aren’t stupid.

    #6
  7. Ray Farmer

    @Reg PE,
    I despise the use of fracking too. It has turned my home, Wise County, into a heavy industrial wasteland.

    #7
  8. Trail_Tramp

    Some of us are old enough to remember the negativity of the Viet Nam war term “fragging”. I’ve always thought that the association is in part what appeals to the protesters.

    #8
  9. XRoughneck

    In 1969 and 70, we used the term fracing, on oil rigs in ND, MT and WY.
    It had the same connotation as now, forcing fluids to expand the rock
    at 10,00 feet and free the oil to flow.

    #9
  10. Let's be kind

    “I. gotta tell you, NY was the worst–People up there in the rural counties object to O&G development the most. Yet they are the ones with the fewest opportunities for jobs, education, and community growth”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Those unfortunate people should be left alone, so they may remain in their stone age squalor.

    #10
  11. Willy

    Why must we be so grammatically lazy?
    Call it what it is, Hydraulic fracturing.

    #11
  12. TexRitter

    I’ve never thought it appropriate to add the “k” since it was a shortened word. I’d like to see a decision one way or the other though as it is irritating to see the variations!

    #12
  13. M

    “We’ve worked in North Texas, South Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Dakota, and New York. I. gotta tell you, NY was the worst–People up there in the rural counties object to O&G development the most. Yet they are the ones with the fewest opportunities for jobs, education, and community growth.”

    Well, it just goes to show they aren’t willing to sell their soul, their environment, and their children’s health to the devil for money. Quite admirable, actually. Texans on the other hand have a relatively low selling price.

    “Those unfortunate people should be left alone, so they may remain in their stone age squalor.”

    LOL!! Right. Go look up which of the two states has higher education rates, percentage of the citizenry are college graduates, average cost of living, lower poverty rates, lower crime rates, ect….oh, never mind, you probably still wouldn’t get it.

    #13
  14. Lunchtime O'booze

    Willy is oh so correct.

    In a moment of sobriety, caused by do gooders keeping the bars closed for Christmas, I would applaud the young man’s accuracy for the spelling of our spoken word and its lyrical veracity.

    Oh that one might meet such enlightened youth on rig floor’s of our fair state’s rigs on or offshore! Long has it been since I was last able to enjoy a discussion of the relative merits of the poetry of Catullus and Ovid with a roustabout or toolpusher betwixt stands.

    A sad state of affairs indeed.

    Maybe Ovid and Catullus do not discuss the relative merits of the SEC vs the Big 12, maybe they do not talk of whether it is best to hunt with cross bow or rifle. Yet, let us be honest, all their poetry is about is the nocturnal activities of some fairly racy young ladies. Woulds’t thou not want to read of such educational lyrical “romance” during one’s tour?

    Or, has the rig floor gone soft with consideration of their designer “worn” caps?

    I thought this was a man’s world?

    #14
  15. tony

    Why is it the media always change things to suit them? There is no question on frac or frack. Frack is a made up word because some idiotic reporter decided “In my own head, I immediately started spelling it with a K,” she said. “It rhymed with cracking. For me it was purely grammatical.”
    so now there is a debate? The industry uses the term frac or fracing. Period end of story.

    #15
  16. Dan X. McGraw

    Tony, some natural gas companies have accepted the word, which is a made up word (but aren’t all words). Chesapeake is one company that does use fracking. The company uses fracking openly on its website (http://www.chk.com/News/Articles/Pages/news_2011110402_EarlyShow.aspx), and consumers have accepted the word. Also, the media didn’t change this word. It was an environmentalist who first coined it.

    #16
  17. jxf011

    By the way, Battlestar Galactica 2003-2009 used the word “frak” and it’s many derivatives a lot for the popular F-word. The spelling in the new series is F – R – A – K. See http://en.battlestarwiki.org/wiki/Frak for more details.

    #17