What the Frack is Fracking? Part 1: On The Surface

What the Frack is Fracking? Part 1: On The Surface

How to define hydraulic fracturing is one of the biggest questions oil and gas companies are commonly asked. As demand for energy around the world grows, hydraulic fracturing is driving this oil and gas boom. Hydraulic fracturing technology is crucial for energy firms to produce the resources demanded by customers to power their homes, businesses and cities. While players in the oil and gas industry may be familiar with the term, they may be wondering how to define hydraulic fracturing and what it will mean for energy production in the future. 

So how do companies define hydraulic fracturing?  Lets start by examining the various components involved in the process.

There are several steps involved in hydraulic fracturing. The first is what happens on the surface, then what happens when the hole down in the earth is formed and finally, the results of the fracking process. This article explains the basic components of fracking at the surface (stay tuned for future blog posts – Parts 2 and 3). 

Companies often define hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as a recovery method that unlocks oil and gas deposits found in shale formations by injecting a blend of fluid into the ground to form cracks in the formation.  These cracks increase the permeability of the formation to improve the release of oil and gas into the wellbore. Before creating the cracks in the petroleum bearing rock formations surrounding resources, companies will need to explore and prepare for production.

Exploring for Resources

To fully define hydraulic fracturing, learning about the history of this technique is important. 

While other oil recovery techniques made it expensive to drill wells that go deep within the earth – in turn increasing the cost of production and price per barrel of oil or its equivalent – fracking emerged as a cost-effective solution to boost output of wells.

Fracking was introduced in 1947 as an experiment before it was finally adopted commercially in 1950. Since then, fracking has come a long way.

To determine whether land has oil and gas deposits, first companies must engage in the exploration of hydrocarbon resources before they test out wells. Oil and gas exploration typically involves performing geologic studies and using various technologies to gauge the recovery and output potential of deposits hidden in shale formations. 

Constructing the Work Site

After finding evidence of oil and gas deposits underground, companies will build out the oil and gas site for production operations. This includes setting up the equipment, vehicles and storage units necessary to recover resources. 

Beginning to Drill the Well

Companies also need to build infrastructure for oil and gas production, including the wellbore and casing. The wellbore, or the hole drilled into the resource bearing formation, is constructed before the well. At the surface of the well is the wellhead, which functions to support the casing and tubing strings as well as give operators control over the pressure during the drilling process. 

Mixing the Fracking Fluid

Furthermore, to undertake hydraulic fracturing, a special blend of fracking fluid is needed. Fracking fluid is a combination of base fluid, a proppant and a specific blend of chemicals. Fundamentally, the fracking fluid is sand and water.  Energy firms mix a custom blend of fracking fluid  to inject into the ground in order to optimize the creation of fractures to access oil and gas of the specific resources. 

Base fluid and Proppant

The base fluid is often made with water, but can also be made with oil, methanol, liquid carbon dioxide and liquefied petroleum gas. Proppant is essentially sand designed to ‘prop’ open the fractures that are created during the production process, or else the fractures might close again once the pressure is released.  Crystalline silica sand is a popular proppant, as are solid or ceramic materials .


Additive chemicals serve several purposes and are usually solvents, acids, gelling agents., and friction reducers These chemicals are used to reinforce the oil and gas formation.


So what the frack is fracking? You should have a much better idea what the process looks like now. Keep an eye on the Advanced Measurements blog for Part 2: “What the Frack is Fracking: Down The Hole.”



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Advanced Measurements Inc.