Reprinted from Central for Industrial Progress
Today’s headlines describe the record oil and gas production volumes achieved by the men and woman who hydraulically fracture (frac) horizontal wellbores. As I explained in my previous article, few of these reports mention that people have been fracing for over sixty-five years.
Opponents of fracing have capitalized on this failure. They are all too eager to portray the science as unknown, the technologies as untried, the practitioners unschooled and unpracticed.
But the fact is that today’s extraordinary achievements were made possible by innovators and practitioners emulating and improving on the science and techniques of their predecessors—mentors and heroes who had been fracing wells throughout the world for over half a century.
One such hero of industrial progress is A.B. Waters. On March 19, 1949 in Archer County, Texas, Mr. Waters completed the second commercial hydraulic fracture treatment ever. Just two hours earlier, his engineering colleague at Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company, Dwight K. Smith, completed the first well in Oklahoma.
Within the span of two hours hydraulic fracturing was successful in increasing hydrocarbons production in two wells, in two different states. Three hundred and thirty-two more fracture treatments resulting in an average 75 percent increase in production would occur in that first year. Unsurprisingly the orders began to flow in for the work of Mr. Waters and his colleagues. So much so that by the mid-1950s over 3000 wells were being hydraulically fractured every month.
With thousands of wells came millions of barrels of oil, increased knowledge and years of hands on experience. In July of 1964 Mr. Waters presented some of this knowledge in a co-authored paper published in the Journal of Petroleum Technology entitled “Advancements Through 15 Years of Fracturing.” From the paper’s abstract:
The first commercial fracturing job was performed in March, 1949, over 15 years ago. Since that date more than 400,000 treatments have been applied to wells located in practically every part of the Free World where oil and gas are found. In addition, untold numbers of wells behind the Iron Curtain have been treated. Many fields are in existence today because of these techniques—without them, producing horizons very probably would have been by-passed as either barren or commercially non-productive. An estimated 10 per cent of all recoverable reserves in North America can be attributed to this type of stimulation.”
By the mid 1980s nearly 40 percent of all wells that were drilled and completed were hydraulically fractured, with the total number of treatments since 1949 reaching nearly one million: Mr. Waters was a big part of this success.
Celebrating this achievement in the 1980s, he stated that “Hydraulic Fracturing has generated more profit for the petroleum industry than any other process, except for exploratory and development drilling.” This remains true today.
Propagandists ignore and smear the life’s work of men like Mr. A. B. Waters with their deceitful claims that fracing is unknown and should be stopped for further study. Instead they should stop their activism, and spend their time and efforts educating themselves.