YouTube Video

They Don't Do It That Way Any More: Fracturing with Explosives

Until fairly recently in the oil and gas fields across the United States explosives were the only way to fracture a well. Even after hydraulic fracturing was first used in Kansas in 1947 explosives continued to be used.

While nitroglycerin was the most commonly used explosive, in 1967 a 26 kiloton atom bomb was used to fracture a well in New Mexico and in 1969 a 40 kiloton atom bomb was used to fracture a well in Colorado. (The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were 13 and 20 kilotons respectively.) Whatever method, rock dust created in the explosion acts as a proppant to keep the fractures open.

Hydraulic fracturing is a relatively recent technology. People have a better idea about the dangers involved with explosives. The oil and gas industry has done a poor job in honestly explaining the dangers involved using hydraulic fracturing. They do this by minimizing the concentrations chemicals used in relation to volumes of water and also by not properly explaining what fracturing is and the immense forces required to create fractures underground. The true chemical composition of fracture fluids is unknown. The fate of these chemicals is incompletely understood.

Rick Estes worked on a drilling rig in the 1970s and his description of the use of explosives to fracture a well just outside of St. Albans, West Virginia, has stayed vivid in our minds since we first heard it.

The 1890s dramatization that appears in the video is part of a public domain movie that is available for download at It was created for Columbia Natural Gas System Corporation in 1959 and has a talking flame recount the history of natural gas exploration and development in the Appalachian Basin. These Are My People is in two parts at (part 1 and part 2). The piano roll music was also found at


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Gas Well Study is the examination of natural gas wells in West Virginia.

Underground Injection Control Class 2 Wells
These wells are used either for the disposal of oil and gas liquid waste or for the enhanced recovery of oil or natural gas.

Gas Well Study Site Visits
Annual reports, environmental assessments, and individual well information.

YouTube Videos
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