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Ever since America’s earliest oil discoveries, dynamite or nitroglycerin detonations increased a well’s production. Hydraulic fracturing came in the 1949. 

Today’s hydraulic fracturing technologies can trace their roots to April 25, 1865, when Civil War veteran Col. Edward A. L. Roberts received the first of his many patents for an “exploding torpedo.”

hydraulic fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing has been used to increase production on millions of oil and natural gas wells since 1949.

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January 20, 1886 – “Great Karg” Natural Gas Well of Findlay, Ohio

A plaque dedicated in 1937 commemorates Ohio’s giant natural gas discovery of January 20, 1886.

The spectacular natural gas well – the Great Karg Well of Findlay, Ohio – comes in with an initial flow of 12 million cubic feet per day.

The well’s pressure is so great that it cannot be controlled by the technology of the time. The gas will ignite and the flame becomes an Ohio tourist attraction that burns for four months.

Ohio’s first natural gas well was drilled in Findlay two years earlier by the Findlay Natural Gas Company, formed by Dr. Charles Oesterle.

However, the Karg well, then the largest in the world, launches the state’s first major natural gas boom – and brings many new industries.

Glass companies especially are “lured by free or cheap gas for fuel,” notes an historical marker at the Richardson Glass Works in Findlay. “They included eight window, two bottle, two chimney lamp, one light bulb, one novelty, and five tableware glass factories.”

By 1887, Findlay will become known as the “City of Light,” adds another nearby historical marker at the first field office for the Ohio Oil Company – established the same year by five independent oil producers.

The Findlay office building of the Ohio Oil Company will become headquarters of Marathon Petroleum.

After becoming an international exploration and production company, in 1962 Ohio Oil Company will change its name to today’s Marathon Oil Company.

The Hancock Historical Museum of Findlay includes natural gas exhibits from the region and is less than two miles from the site of the famous well. The museum also houses permanent exhibits relating to Findlay Glass Company.

Learn how other major natural gas discoveries launched new industries in Natural Gas is King in Pittsburgh and Indiana Natural Gas Boom.

January 21, 1865 - Civil War Veteran demonstrates his Oil Well “Torpedo”

A Pennsylvania historical marker commemorates Colonel E.A.L. Roberts, a Civil War veteran who patented oil well “torpedoes.”

Civil War veteran Col. Edward A. L. Roberts (1829-1881) conducts his first experiment to increase oil production by using an explosive charge deep in the well.

Roberts twice detonates eight pounds of black powder 465 feet deep in the bore of the Ladies Well on Watson’s Flats south of Titusville, Pennsylvania.

The “shooting” of the well increases daily production from a few barrels to more than 40 barrels. In 1866, the Titusville Morning Herald will report:

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 15 pounds to 20 pounds, is lowered into the well, down to the spot, as near as can be ascertained, where it is necessary to explode it. Read the rest of this entry »