History of FRACing
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracing” for short, is a well stimulation technique that has become a cornerstone of the oil and gas industry over the last 70 years. The process was first put into practice in 1947 as an experiment of Stanolind Oil and Gas Co. and was later made commercially viable in the 1950’s. As of 2017, over 2.5 million “fracs jobs” have been performed worldwide and over 1.1 million of those have occurred in the United States. Through the combination of fracing and horizontal drilling, previously low value formations, such as shale and tight sands, have returned high profits, sparking a revolution and surge in production within the energy industry.
The fracing process occurs after a well has been drilled and steel pipe (casing) has been inserted in the well bore. The casing is perforated within the target zones that contain hydrocarbons, so that when the fracturing fluid is injected into the well it flows through the perforations into the formation of interest. A typical fracturing fluid is a mixture of water (90 percent), sand (9.5 percent), and additives (0.5 percent).
Additives play a number of roles, including helping to reduce friction and preventing pipe corrosion, which in turn help protect the environment and boost well efficiency. When injected, the fluid is at a high enough pressure to reach the “fracture point” of the formation which causes the rock to crack or fracture. When the fractures are forced open by the fluid pressure materials called proppants (e.g., usually sand or ceramic beads), which were injected as part of the frac fluid mixture, get lodged in the fractures and remain after the injection is ceased to hold the new flow path open thereby increasing flow rate.