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Periscope Film, Feb 8, 2017

"This film, "The Resourceful Atom: Project Gasbuggy" documents an  underground nuclear detonation carried out by the United States Atomic Energy Commission on December 10, 1967 in rural northern New Mexico. It was part of Operation Plowshare, a program designed to find peaceful uses for nuclear explosions.

Gasbuggy was carried out by the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory and the El Paso Natural Gas Company, with funding from the Atomic Energy Commission. Its purpose was to determine whether controlled nuclear explosions could be useful in loosening rock formations for the sake of natural gas extraction. In modern terms, it would be called a form of nuclear fracking.

The site of the test, which is now part of Carson National Forest, is approximately 25 miles southwest of Dulce, New Mexico and 50 miles east of Farmington, and was chosen because natural gas deposits were known to be held in sandstone beneath Leandro Canyon. A 29-kiloton device was placed at a depth of 4,227 feet underground and detonated; a crowd had gathered to watch, which viewed the detonation from atop a nearby butte.

The explosion was carried out according to plan, detonating successfully and creating an 80-foot-wide, 335-foot-deep crater at the site. Wells were drilled and natural gas was extracted from the site. However, the gas proved to be too radioactive to be commercially viable. Highly radioactive material in the area was removed, and the site is now level ground safe to approach at the surface, although drilling or digging in the area is prohibited. In 1978, a placard was installed at the site noting the location of ground zero.

After Gasbuggy, two further nuclear explosions were carried out as part of Operation Plowshare in the interest of gas extraction, both in Colorado. Devices were detonated at Rulison in 1969 and in Rio Blanco County in 1973, both with similar results.

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This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD, 2k and 4k. For more information visit"

Transcript of the overvoice:

Natural gas flowing from this well in a field in New Mexico may be used tonight on the west coast to cook the evening meal.

Natural gas may find its way to homes and industry in the east from a well in Texas.

Today 1/3 of the energy consumed in this country comes from this natural resource, produced in abundance only in certain areas of the United States.

Pipelines extend from border to border to homes, businesses and industry, now consuming natural gas at a rate 20 times greater than 50 years ago.

Ever increasing use of this product, so vital to our economy, has brought attention to its reserves and to adjoining reservoirs, where gas recovery has previously been judged difficult.

Natural gas is brought to the surface by wells drilled thousands of feet down into the Earth's crust, tapping ancient layers of rock, in which marine life has been buried for millions of years.

Natural gas is usually under great pressure, which forces it out to the well bore through interconnecting cracks, crevices and microscopic pores extending throughout the reservoir rock.

This characteristic in the rock formation, typical for easily tap reservoirs, is called high permeability.

Low premeability reservoirs, in which the rock formations are tightly compacted, create production problems at the microscopic level.

The gas is trapped within the pores of the rock, cemented in by clay or other materials, which keeps the gas from flowing out of the reservoir at a rate permitting efficient production.

In years past efforts have been made to fracture tight sandstone reservoirs, increasing their permeability by shooting the wells by nitroglycerin.

A more popular approach has been to force open cracks and fractures with liquids mixed with sand to prop open the resulting fissures, but even this system has not been entirely satisfactory.

A search for a better method indicated the feasibility of loosening up tight reservoirs with the explosive power of the atom, a source of immense energy, already tested more then 225 successful underground demonstrations in the United States.

Here certainly was a tool to do the job. It was this approach to the problem, that led in January 1967 to a joint experimental program by the Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of the Interior and El Paso Natural Gas Company, an industry leader in the field of natural gas.

The site chosen for the test was this plateau in northwestern New Mexico, federal forest lands, where the gas rights were already leased by El Paso Natural.

55 air miles east of the city of Farmington, adjacent to the reservation of the Hickory Apaches, the site provided ideal test conditions with tight reservoir rock, deep enough to contain the explosion.

Cost of the program, including several supplemental experiments would be share proportionally by the participants.

The project plan called for an initial test drilling by El Paso Natural. The Atomic Energy Commission to have the ultimate nuclear responsibility and the safety program, the Bureau of Mines to evaluate the gas reservoir performance, prior to and following the test shot. 

The technical direction and nuclear explosive design were to be the responsibility of the AEC's Lawrence Radiation Laboratory at Livermore, operated by the University of California. 

The program brought also into cooperative participation, the services and background knowledge of a number of other federal agencies and private organizations.

The project was examined from a public safety viewpoint by nationally recognized experts in such fields as radiation and geophysics and all-weather access road at the site was built by the state of New Mexico.

Barely two weeks after he contracts were signed, drilling began on the first of two test holes to thoroughly evaluate and analyze pre-shot characteristics and productivity of the reservoir run, and to determine placement of the explosive three-quarters of a mile below the surface 

Core samples cut out of the rock below with diamond drills were flown to the Bureau of Mines laboratory at Bartelsville Oklahoma to assure the suitability of the reservoir for the test. Additional analysis was conducted at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in California and at a commercial facility in Farmington. 

Gas flow tests were made to establish a basis for comparison with productivity following the test. Hydrologic tests were conducted to ensure that subsurface water would not be contaminated or impede the gas flow.

And to obtain additional data a second test hole was drilled some 400 feet from the first. These and other field studies showed the project could be conducted safely.

The primary gas bearing stratum, the experimental objective, was the 100 million year old textured cliffs formation, so named because of Indian drawings found on outcroppings west of the site.

From this outcrop the formation drops underground to a depth of about 4000 feet beneath the Mesa, where the test site was located.

An emplacement hole for the explosive was drilled down through the overlaying strata. At approximately 3600 feet (1097.28 meter) the drillers reached a 150 feet (45,72 meter) deep layer of Kirtland shale.

Then cut through the Fruitland formation, an inter-bedded shale and coal stratum 100 feet (30,48 meter) thick. These two formation would provide an effective safety barrier.

The drilling continued through the gas bearing pictured cliffs sandstone, some 300 feet thick, to a point in the Lewis Shale formation, the total depth of about 4300 feet (1310,64).  Here the explosive would be emplaced.

A nuclear explosive has several advantages over a conventional chemical explosive such as TNT, which would require a huge excavation as prohibitive cost to achieve equivalent energy and still be less effective.

Nuclear explosions occur almost instantaneously, their effects measured in thousandths of a second. A shock wave emanates from the center of the explosion. 

The expanding nucleus of the cavity becomes a bright ball enveloped by melting rock. The rock in the center turns to vapor. Fractures radiate outwards. The cavity reaches its approximate maximum diameter 150 feet (45.72 meter) by the time the shock wave rebounds from the surface. 

All occurring in less than one second. Shortly after melted rock begins running down the sides to form a puddle at the bottom. Cooling and diminished pressures within the cavity caused the sphere to begin falling upon itself.

The eventual result in Gasbuggy to produce a chimney shaped loosely broken column of broken rock, extending through the gas bearing formation. The principal fracturing was expected to reach 425 feet (129.54 meter) from the point of detonation.

scientists hoped the resulting cracking would increase the gas flow through the immediate area by as much as seven times before the emplacement hole was completed and ready for the canister in November.

Data collecting instrumentation extended from the nearby holes to remote monitoring stations around the site.

The canister was half filled with instruments and weighed ten times ... It was lowered into the hole but sections of steel pipe, which were later sealed with sand and concrete, after the canister was in place.

They would later be drilled out to reach the chimney. The nuclear device was detonated on December 10th. Visitors gathered at a point about six miles from the site, assembled initially in a huge tent, setup for the occasion.

They were briefed on the experiment by attending dignitaries and project officials. This was to be no awesome spectacle. However the fireworks were more than three-quarters of a mile down in the ground. 

While initial data gathered following the shot indicated that the test had proceeded as expected, the shot itself represented only one step in the experiment.

Scientists obtained some information almost immediately. Four days later the were drilling back down through the cement and sand filled pipe toward the chimney to measure radioactive gas flow and pressure.

They reached the chimney thirty nine hundred feet below the surface. On January 10th 1968 new test holes will be drilled to determine the extent of fracturing and flow characteristics throughout the reservoir.

Long range studies to evaluate production characteristics of existing wells in the test area will be conducted by El Paso Natural Gas and the Bureau of Mines.

Meanwhile tests already underway indicate that the project Gasbuggy may prove to be one of the truly significant advancements in the petroleum industry. 

With ever-increasing demands for natural gas and rising costs associated with exploration for new sources the economical use of known previously hard to tap reservoirs may substantially increase the world's access to this important resource.

Thus project Gasbuggy takes its place among the major milestones of the Atomic Energy Commission's continuing search for new domestic and commercial uses of the atom. Putting to work the greatest source of energy known in the universe to benefit mankind.

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Evidence of Water Delivery by ClimateControl!

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