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19th Century Frac Job: Oil Well Torpedoing (and a ‘grievous’ government monopoly)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- August 20, 2013

Today’s hydraulic fractionation (fracing) is considered injurious to the environment by its opponents who prefer a state-of-nature and less energy to industrialization and more energy in free market settings. As with so many other technologies, today’s methods are far less invasive and safer than earlier-generation technology. A case in point is the 19th century’s oil-well torpedoing.

In the first years of oil production flowing wells were sometimes hindered by a waxy substance, paraffin, left by crude oil in the well tubing and well bottom. Early efforts to remove residue involved injecting steam, boiling liquids, and air down a well’s tubing.  These mildly successful techniques were then replaced by a far superior alternative – oil well torpedoing.  [1]

Gun powder explosions in water wells had been documented as early as 1808, and between 1860 and 1864, the technique was in use with oil wells as well.