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A “Father of Fracking” Story!

Happy Father’s Day! We hope you had a great weekend with family, BBQ, and celebrating Fathers!

There is one Dad, I would especially like to celebrate this week. He is my best friend’s father, Jim. He is an 86 year old oilman from Louisiana. To protect his privacy, I am just using his first name.

I had the honor of sitting with Jim, a fourth generation independent oil producer, a year or so ago. I thought you would enjoy a story about drilling from his early days. Jim’s Dad, Mr. G, was an independent oil producer outside of Shreveport, Louisiana. He drilled in the Pine Island field in the 1930’s. Around 1951, the story goes as follows:

One morning, Mr. G noticed a neighbor, a large oil field company, had put up a fence and placed armed guards at their property entrance and around a well. Mr. G knew the pumper working on the well and asked him what was going on. The pumper told him about fracking with “special” sand and water to open up the formation. A low producing well they fracked had gone to over 100 bpd. Needless to say, this was big. Mr. G asked the pumper about the sand and the process.

As small towns go, others were also noticing the parade of trucks rumbling on and off the property. Word was quickly spreading. Mr. G took the initiative to start calling around town to find out where the sand was coming from, so he could give it a try. Finally, a call to the local tombstone sand blaster, who engraved burial markers, proved to be payday. “Why yes!” the business owner responded. “Them boys been buyin’ sand by the train car loads. I used to buy a load every few months but these boys been buyin’ it up like crazy.” Mr. G promptly ordered sand. Finally, a week or so later, it arrived.

Curious oilmen from all around gathered at the well to watch. Even the guy who sandblasted the tombstones showed up. Mr. G blasted the sand at 3,000 psi down into the hole without a clear understanding of how to do it. My friend actually has journals that Mr. G kept outlining day to day all of the details of his endeavor and discoveries to figure out how this new water and sand pumping approach was done! He had to figure it out without any guidance, mind you. Sure enough, the oil flowed.

So what was the big deal with secrecy? Mr. G shared that the oil company, which later became Standard Oil, was trying to do a stealth fracking job with the intention of patenting the process, so that others couldn’t use it. Thanks to Mr. G and others, the word spread quickly and fracking was quickly implemented throughout the region. Once other people started using the method, it could no longer be patented. By the way, that well is still producing!

Mind you, this company wasn’t the first fracker. We only know that they intended to patent the process. So, hats off to you, Mr. G for paving the way for others to be frackers in that area.

Little did Mr. G know that he was one of the many unrecognized entrepreneurs, who was a type of Father of Fracking. Initiative such as his, helped to change the future of the industry.

Here is a little further history on fracking you may find interesting:

In 1866 (149 years ago), U.S. Patent No. 59,936 was issued to Civil War veteran Col. Edward Roberts. Roberts’ invention is known simply as “Exploding Torpedo.”

Its creation began when he witnessed Confederate exploding artillery rounds plunging into the narrow millrace (canal) that obstructed a battlefield in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Roberts’ observation gave him an idea that would evolve into what he described as “superincumbent fluid tamping.” Nobody knew it at the time, but Roberts’ “Exploding Torpedo” was the birth of the modern-day shale fracturing industry…

The Titusville Morning Herald reported in 1866: Our attention has been called to a series of experiments that have been made in the wells of various localities by Col. Roberts, with his newly patented torpedo. The results have in many cases been astonishing. The torpedo, which is an iron case, containing an amount of powder varying from fifteen to twenty pounds, is lowered into the well, down to the spot, as near as can be ascertained, where it is necessary to explode it. It is then exploded by means of a cap on the torpedo, connected with the top of the shell by a wire.

Filling the borehole with water provided Roberts his “fluid tamping” to concentrate concussion and more efficiently fracture surrounding oil strata. The technique was immediately successful. Production from some wells increased 1,200% within a week of being shot — and the Roberts Petroleum Torpedo Company experienced booming business as a result.

Roberts’ company flourished as it helped other oil companies frack their wells. To avoid Roberts’ fees and royalties, some oil companies hired unlicensed operators to “torpedo” their wells, working by “moonlight,” where the term originates. Roberts hired lawyers to protect his patent… and is said “to have been responsible for more civil litigation in defense of a patent than anyone in U.S. history.”……..

Nitroglycerin detonations would be used until 1989. But the next evolution of the Roberts torpedo came in 1947 in Grant County, Kansas, where natural gas wells underwent the very first hydraulic fracturing…

Then came an oil well two years later. On March 17, 1949, drilling experts fracked an oil well about 12 miles east of Duncan, Oklahoma.

Later that same day, Halliburton and Stanolind Co. successfully fractured another oil well near Holliday, Texas. In 1950, hydraulic fracturing was used for the first time in the Cardium oil field in central Alberta, Canada.

But it wasn’t until the 1970s and 1980s that George Mitchell cracked the code and unleashed an ocean of gas and oil from shale… Known now as “the father of shale gas,” Mitchell applied fracturing to the prolific Barnett Shale in Texas where the modern-day shale revolution was born. Thanks to Mitchell, every shale formation in the United States is now open for business……..

By 1988, hydraulic fracturing had been successfully applied nearly one million times. And as of today, more than 2.5 million hydraulic fracturings have occurred worldwide.

Author: Brian Hicks, Energy Capital. For the complete article, visit:

Back to Jim, who also shared with me his view on the future of oil and gas: He believes, “As long as the stock market goes up and stays strong, oil prices will hold. With pending recession in Europe and worldwide, it’s hard to call. We need to be careful to not kill the goose that laid the golden egg by over producing, as happened in natural gas. We also should sell our gas and oil in our own country. And finally, one easy prediction is that the producers who can get the oil out of the ground at the lowest cost will be successful and stay in the game for the long run.” Otherwise, and I quote, “I don’t know. There are just too many variables to call it.”

At 86, Jim heads to his office everyday in Central Florida and continues to be very active in his oil and gas development business.

Have a great week!


Here is an interesting article in the Chippewa Herald indicating that permitting for frac sand mines in that county have not slowed down:

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