Velda Addison, Hart Energy

It may be time for a name change as the commonly known “unconventional” hydraulic fracturing technique has become the norm in the U.S.

A report released May 5 by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) revealed that natural gas production from hydraulically fractured wells make up 67% of the total marketed U.S. gas production, nearly 10 times the percentage seen 16 years ago.

“In 2000, approximately 26,000 hydraulically fractured wells produced 3.6 billion cubic per day (Bcf/d) of marketed gas in the United States, making up less than 7% of the national total,” the EIA said in the report. “By 2015, the number of hydraulically fractured wells had grown to an estimated 300,000, and production from those wells had grown to more than 53 Bcf/d, making up about 67% of the total natural gas output of the United States.”

However, because of the type of wells and natural gas volumes analyzed, among other areas, the numbers may differ from other sources, warned the EIA, which used data from IHS Global Insight and DrillingInfo Inc. for its report.

The production of marketed natural gas, which is processed into dry consumer-grade natural gas, does not include natural gas used for repressuring the well. It also excludes vented and flared gas as well as nonhydrocarbon gasses, according to the EIA.

“Natural gas production from hydraulic fracturing has primarily come from shale and other tight rocks in the Marcellus and Utica formations of the Appalachian Basin, the Bakken formation in Montana and North Dakota, the Eagle Ford formation in Texas and the stacked Permian Basin formations in Texas and New Mexico,” the EIA said.

As many already know, the drilling completion technique is not new.

Floyd Farris of Stanolind Oil and Gas ushered in modern day hydraulic fracturing in the late 1940s at the Hugoton gas field in Kansas. Back then, the experiment involved use of gelled gasoline, or napalm, and sand. Halliburton Co. pioneered the commercial use of hydraulic fracturing, using the process to stimulate the flow of natural gas from the field in 1949.

The company has an impressive Interactive Fracturing 101 feature on its website.

“Hydraulic fracturing has been successfully used in directional and vertical wells, natural gas and oil wells, and in non-tight formations and reservoirs,” the EIA said. “To date, most natural gas from hydraulically fractured wells has come from Lower 48, onshore tight rock formations.”

The shale boom, of course, took off when the technique was successfully combined with horizontal drilling. Overtime the oil and gas industry has unleashed a powerful wave of technology that has led not only to production gains but also operational efficiency improvements.

And today’s lower commodity price environment could push the industry toward even better things.

Velda Addison can be reached at