A few months ago, we ran a story highlighting the three break-through technologies that have facilitated the shale hydrocarbon extraction “revolution” that’s revived local economies while torpedoing natural gas prices.Fracking was not one of them.
As we mentioned, fracturing rock to extract gas has been around since at least 1949.
Today we did some more digging. As far as we can tell, this October 31, 1954 report by an unnamed stringer in Mobile, Ala. is the first recorded instance the technique appeared in the New York Times.
And it involved napalm.
The report documents how Halliburton, along with the U.S. Bureau of Mines and the state’s power company, was attempting to use hydraulic fracturing (which in a possible typo it says is also “called ‘hydrfrac’ “) to extract gas through burning coal underground.
Coal gasification, by the way, gets used to exploit coal resources that cannot be profitably mined.
Here’s the stringer’s description of the process, which is basically identical to how it works today — with the one teeny exception:
“A hole about eight inches in diameter is drilled from the earth’s surface into the coal bed. a six-inch steel pipe is put in the hole throughout its entire length.
“Cement is forced into the pipe, which is open at the bottom, and back up the space between the wall of the hole and the pipe. cement then is drilled from the centre of the hole.
“Waste petroleum oil bolstered with napalm is pumped into the well by high-pressure pumps. Sand is mixed with the oil. Pressure as high as 12,000 pounds per square inch can be built up.”
Today, guar gum is used as the principal thickening agent in the fracking process — although emissions including naphthalene, a related hydrocarbon derivative, have been found at fracking sites.
Still, we’re glad the industry’s moved on.
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