Industry sings ‘Happy birthday to fracking’ today

From Fuel Fix:

HOUSTON — The oil and gas industry is launching a social media campaign to promote hydraulic fracturing by highlighting Monday as the hotly debated technology’s 65th birthday.

On March 17, 1949, Halliburton conducted the first commercial fracking job, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Hydraulic fracturing involves treating oil and gas wells with a mix of water and chemicals at high pressure, causing underground rock to fracture and allowing oil and gas to flow more freely.

Experimentation with earliest forms of the technology began as early as the 1860s, according to the American Petroleum Institute. But in 1949, working under a patent and an exclusive license, Halliburton performed the country’s first two commercial jobs — one in Stephens County, Okla., and one in Texas’ Archer County — on the same day. Those treatments increased the well production by an average of 75 percent.

The rest, of course, is history. Fracking is half of the equation that spurred the current energy boom in the United States — the other being advancements in horizontal drilling. Today, according to the API, the technology helps produce about 3.5 million barrels of oil per day, or 45 percent of the U.S. total. It’s also spurred natural gas production, helping to pump 40 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, about 60 percent of the national total.

“Thanks to fracking, we can produce more energy, with a smaller environmental footprint — changing America’s energy trajectory from scarcity to abundance,” said Erik Milito, director of the upstream industry operations with the American Petroleum Institute, in a statement. “This is a birthday worth celebrating.”

Others, however, vehemently disagree with that statement. While the technology has helped spawn a domestic energy renaissance, critics have frequently questioned its health and environmental impacts and even have banned the technique in some municipalities.

- Ryan Holywell, FuelFix