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Making Columbus proud

July 31, 2018

Growing up, former Columbus resident Nick Steinsberger always knew he wanted to be an engineer.

“It’s very diverse,” said Steinsberger, who currently lives in Texas. “There’s a lot of different explorations... It’s a very technical field.”

Many years later, Steinsberger grew up to be one of the prominent individuals in the oil and gas industry. The 54-year-old was recently featured in Wall Street Journal for his breakthrough on fracking, a process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks to extract oil or gas.

As Steinsberger entered the workforce after receiving his degree in petroleum engineering at the University of Texas in the late 1980s, he said it was a difficult time for the oil and gas industry with prices diminishing.

“He couldn’t get a job of any kind for a while,” said George Steinsberger, Nick’s father, who previously taught at Central Community College.

Nick, a father of five, later found his way to Mitchell Energy & Development Corp. in Texas as a production engineer, where he worked toward increasing the production of existing oil wells.

Back then, the company implemented hydraulic fracking, where sand, water and chemicals are pumped into shale rocks at high temperature, to release natural gas trapped inside.

However, the method became uneconomical, costing the company a lot of money.

“So what Nick came up with – his great innovation – was to develop a much more efficient and productive method of hydraulic fracking,” George said.

Nick altered the solution used to pump the rocks by incorporating more water mixed with sand and some chemicals into the fracking process, which became a more cost-effective method and was later called, “slick-water frack.”

Russell Gold, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, contacted Steinsberger 20 years ago when he first made the discovery for his innovative fracking technique of extracting gas from shale rocks for his book, “The Boom.”

“I was just trying to lower cost and finding something more economical than what we were doing,” Steinsberger said. “It took several years of working to come up with that recipe.”

In conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the discovery, Gold decided to reach out to Steinsberger again to highlight his work in The Wall Street Journal, as well as how the method was picked up by numerous oil and gas companies worldwide. The article, “The Texas Well That Started A Revolution,” was published earlier this summer.

“So whole huge energy boom in the United States in the last 15 to 20 years, really started there…,” George said.

After his discovery, Nick continued working for Mitchell Energy & Development Corporation for another five to six years before venturing into his own business, Val Point. Nick spent several years in between as a consultant for oil and gas companies worldwide.

Nick’s oldest son, Mitchell, recently graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in petroleum engineering and is following close to his father’s footsteps.

George and his wife, Glenda, said they knew Nick had potential to be great, but his breakthrough still came as a surprise.

“He has done very very well,” George said. “He’s been very successful… He has developed a very big reputation based on it.”

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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