Fracking has a long history in the United States

March 24, 2014

Considering that hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") has only recently begun to make headlines as one of the primary drivers of the recent oil and gas drilling boom in the U.S., Americans could be forgiven for thinking that this technology is younger than it actually is.

In fact, fracking turns 65 this year, according to a press release by the American Petroleum Institute,

"Americans have long been energy pioneers, from the 1800s when the first wells were drilled to today," API Director of Upstream and Industry Operations Erik Milito said in the statement. "As part of that history, on March 17, 1949, we developed the technology to safely unlock shale and other tight formations, and now the U.S. is the world's largest producer of oil and natural gas."

As a result of the most recent fracking boom, the API argues, average disposable incomes among American households increased by about $1,200. In addition, the technology led to the creation of 2.1 million jobs and contributed $284 billion to GDP. IHS Global Insight estimates that these benefits will only increase in future years.

Fracking states see impressive industry growth

Louisiana and Texas are two examples of states that have experienced impressive growth as a result of fracking activity. 

In Texas, the Dallas News reports that recent fracking activity has led to more than a simple boom in the market. Boom times, after all, are contrasted with inevitable "bust" times, during which production falters and revenue sharply declines. However, the news source argues that this time is different.

"This is a more sustainable and potentially longer-lasting boom," John Auers, a Dallas oil analyst said. "The early '80s were great times, but they became bad pretty fast. I don't think that's going to happen going forward."

Indeed, just five years ago Texas was averaging 1.1 million barrels of oil per day. Last year, that average more than doubled to 2.6 million barrels, and by 2023, the Texas Railroad Commission says the state could reach 5 million.

The reason why many people believe this is sustainable is because of the West Texas Permian Basin, which is one of the largest oil reserves in the world and is only just beginning to be tapped. It helps that oil wells have gotten much more efficient over the years.

But while Texas is embracing this future, some in Louisiana worry that the state is taking the industry for granted. The state is already responsible for 30 percent of domestic energy production, but that may change as others embrace fracking more fully.

"It's the attitude and complacency of people saying: 'It really doesn't matter how we treat oil and gas. They're not going anywhere,'" Chris John, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, told the Times-Picayune. "That could not be further from the truth."

Industry leaders seek to demonstrate how fracking will benefit the state. This is certainly true economically, but concerns about the environmental impact of fracking abound. For this reason, oil and gas companies need to work with environmental consultants to ensure that their operations maximize benefits while having the least possible environmental impact.