Ever since America’s earliest oil discoveries, detonating dynamite or nitroglycerin downhole helped increase a well’s production. The technology – commonly used in oilfields for almost a century – would be greatly improved when hydraulic fracturing arrived in 1949. 

hydraulic fracking

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

Modern hydraulic “fracking”” can trace its roots to April 1865, when Civil War veteran Col. Edward A. L. Roberts received the first of his many patents for an “exploding torpedo.”

In May 1990, Pennsylvania’s Otto Cupler Torpedo Company “shot” its last oil well using liquid nitroglycerin – abandoning nitro but continuing to pursue a fundamental oilfield technology. President Rick Tallini says today’s widely used  fracturing systems are much advanced from Col. Roberts’ original patents.

hydraulic fracking

When Col. E.A.L. Roberts founds his company in 1865, his many patents give him a monopoly on torpedoes needed by the oil industry. The stock certificate – with oilfield vignettes – is worth about $300 to collectors.

“Our business since Colonel Roberts’ day has concerned lowering high explosives charges into oil wells in the Appalachian area to blast fractures into the oil bearing sand,” says Tallini. His company is based in Titusville – where the American petroleum industry began in August 1859 (learn more in First American Oil Well). Read the rest of this entry »