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Hydraulic fracturing began as an experiment in 1947, and the first commercially successful application followed in 1950. Hydraulic fracturing is highly controversial in many countries. For these reasons, hydraulic fracturing is under international scrutiny, restricted in some countries, and banned altogether in others. The European Union is drafting regulations that would permit the controlled application of hydraulic fracturing.
Fractures formed in this way are generally oriented in a plane perpendicular to the minimum principal stress, and for this reason, hydraulic fractures in well bores can be used to determine the orientation of stresses. In natural examples, such as dikes or vein-filled fractures, the orientations can be used to infer past states of stress. Also see a general review paper on the mechanics of fracking. The impact of high pore fluid pressure on the formation process of mineral vein systems is particularly evident in “crack-seal” veins, where the vein material is part of a series of discrete fracturing events, and extra vein material is deposited on each occasion. One example of long-term repeated natural fracturing is in the effects of seismic activity. This process is referred to as “seismic pumping”.
In sedimentary rocks with a significant water content, fluid at fracture tip will be steam. Fracturing as a method to stimulate shallow, hard rock oil wells dates back to the 1860s. Dynamite or nitroglycerin detonations were used to increase oil and natural gas production from petroleum bearing formations. Later still the same method was applied to water and gas wells. Stimulation of wells with acid, instead of explosive fluids, was introduced in the 1930s.
The experiment was not very successful as deliverability of the well did not change appreciably. The process was further described by J. Clark of Stanolind in his paper published in 1948. A patent on this process was issued in 1949 and exclusive license was granted to the Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company. In contrast with large-scale hydraulic fracturing used in low-permeability formations, small hydraulic fracturing treatments are commonly used in high-permeability formations to remedy “skin damage”, a low-permeability zone that sometimes forms at the rock-borehole interface.
In such cases the fracturing may extend only a few feet from the borehole. Other countries in Europe and Northern Africa subsequently employed hydraulic fracturing techniques including Norway, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Tunisia, and Algeria. Hydraulic fracturing of shales goes back at least to 1965, when some operators in the Big Sandy gas field of eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia started hydraulically fracturing the Ohio Shale and Cleveland Shale, using relatively small fracs. The frac jobs generally increased production, especially from lower-yielding wells. In 1998, the new technique proved to be successful when the first 90 days gas production from the well called S. 3 exceeded production of any of the company’s previous wells. 1991, but was not widely done in the Barnett until it was demonstrated that gas could be economically extracted from vertical wells in the Barnett.