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Hydraulic Fracture Efficiency

Synthetic hydraulic fractures produced in Jell-O using a straw and colored syrup (left) and a natural one in the Touchet Beds (right) as sketched by R.L. Lupher (1944). It doesn't take a huge force to generate hydraulic fractures. The conditions just have to be right.

A disc-shaped, sand- and gravel-filled intrusion is fed from above by a slender conduit. This structure in the Touchet Beds (Missoula flood deposits) appears identical to hydraulic fractures produced with a straw in gelatin. Starbuck, WA.

Channel fill or filled hydraulic fracture? I suspect the former. Fluvial-lacustrine strata overlain by fanglomerate mapped as Ellensburg Fm. Houghton Rd north of Sunnyside, WA.

"Still Life, Green Edge" by William Scott (1971) sold in 2020 for $500,000, possibly to someone in the oil industry. Petroleum Geology majors go on to buy expensive art and fund geoscience departments at major universities. Environmental Studies majors don't.

Well fracking, first employed in the 1880s, is an outgrowth of reason and the quest for efficiency in a highly competitive industry. It just makes sense. The point of fracking a well is to increase the surface area of hydrocarbon-bearing strata in contact with the wellbore. The interior surface of a wellbore, a cylinder, is minuscule when compared to the surface area of an interconnected network of thin hydraulic fractures extending several meters into the surrounding rock. While surface area could in theory be increased by drilling one very, very large-diameter hole or by drilling many, many small holes in close proximity to one another, neither approach is efficient, legally permitted, or wise. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that it would take a single well with a diameter of 153' to equal the surface area of a single fracked well with a 6" diameter bore (see calcs below). The largest tunnel boring machines (TBM) are only 20m in diameter and they don't go vertical. Fracking is an incredibly efficient way to increase the surface area of a single well drilled by one rig from one well pad. Its a fully legal, standard practice that has been employed hundreds of thousands of times in petroleum basins worldwide for more than a century. Those who protest fracking will continue to fail because they make no sense.

Back in 1862, Edward Roberts "conceived the idea of opening the veins and crevices in oil-bearing rock by exploding an elongated shell or torpedo therein.” Source: Drake Well Museum.

D.S. Hulse's patent for down-hole hydraulic fracturing and cyclic pressure curves - very smart.

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