Appalachian Basin

Natural Gas: Nothing New Under the Sun

Cris Pasto came across an interesting find this past weekend while shopping with his family in Owego, NY–a 1947 Fortune Magazine article on shale oil and natural gas development.

My wife, kids, and I took a stroll through an antique shop in Owego, New York this past weekend.  While browsing, I discovered a truly remarkable find on a topic that comes up time and again in natural gas discussions. It was an issue of Fortune Magazine from 1947 that included an article on large-scale horizontal drilling and fracture stimulation of shale for oil and natural gas. Yes, I said 1947.At first I began to take pictures of the thing and then just decided to buy it so I could scan and share.  The dealer said to me –

“…the phrase ‘nothing new under the sun’ comes to mind.”

When I got home, I decided to take the magazine out of its protective cover and browse through it.  The thing that stood out to me as an underlying theme throughout the magazine was productivity, manufacturing, engineering, and booming business – all things of the past in New York.

I saw a neat ad promoting the Alberta Tar Sands, the source for which hydrocarbons will be piped through the Keystone XL pipeline when it is finally approved.


There was also an interesting ad for well re-stimulation.

fortune1947-well restimulation ad

The best thing of course was the article on inventor Leo Ranney’s strategies for harvesting oil and natural gas from shale.  I knew this was older technology, but I must admit that the antis constant regurgitation of their fabricated ‘facts’ even gave me pause on the real age of this technology.

It’s quite clear in this article that Ranney was not thinking about any small scale or low volume operation.  The artists illustration were clearly complex industrial sites.  What I think has changed is that we have simply improved on the technology as most things outside of the anti world do.  Ranney’s idea was to pump oxygen down one well to burn hydrocarbons and create pressure to push the gas and oil through the fractured shale to another well.  The shale was fractured with dynamite.  Today we use one surface hole and push water down into the fractured shale with sand to hold the fractures open to allow the free flow of gas without the need for the pressure resulting from the oxidation of the hydrocarbons as I understand it.

We might have improved on the technology for hydraulically fracturing shale, but the basics and the ideas behind it really are “nothing new under the sun,” and I’ve got the article to prove it.

1947 Fortune Magazine article on shale oil and natural gas development

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