In The News

Fracking pioneer George P Mitchell passes away

Fracking pioneer George P Mitchell passes away

THE death has taken place of George P. Mitchell who turned fracking into a commercially viable way of drilling for natural gas and transformed the industry in the United States. He was 94.

Mr. Mitchell, who was from Galveston, Texas, had already been a very successful oilman before he became interest in the use of fracking. After graduating top of his class in petroleum engineering at Texas A&M, he turned to wildcatting — the term used for people who search and find oil in areas where others believed none existed. His great skills as a geologist proved to be the key to his success at finding oil deposits.

He went on to found Mitchell Energy & Development, which he eventually sold for $3.5bn in 2002. 

Mr. Mitchell was regarded as a great visionary whose activities were not confined to oil and gas exploration. He also promoted sustainable energy methods as well as backing initiatives such as The Woodlands — a massive new town which he began developing in the early 1970s near Houston and which today is home to more than 90,000 people as well as a base for many businesses.

But at a time when many other businessmen were contemplating retirement, Mr. Mitchell took on a new challenge. He believed fracking — the process by which sand, water and other fluids are forced at great pressure into shale rock formations in order to extract gas — was the way forward. But it was to take him 17 years to perfect the process, during which time he had faced numerous setbacks. But when he was almost 80, Mr. Mitchell’s vision was proved to be correct when he demonstrated that fracking was commercially viable. 

The breakthrough has transformed the energy supply outlook for the United States with some experts predicting the country could be energy independent by the end of the decade. Hopes have also been raised that fracking could also be used in U.K. to boost energy supplies.

Over the years Mr. Mitchell used his great wealth to back medical research and help community and education projects. In 2011, the billionaire philanthropist announced his intention to donate most of his money to charity when he signed the Giving Pledge, which is sponsored by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

In February, he was given the 2013 History-Making Texan Award by the Texas State History Museum Foundation Board of Trustees (see below).

Mr. Mitchell passed away in his home city of Galveston. His wife Cynthia had predeceased him in 2009. They had ten children.

In a statement, his family said: “He will be fondly remembered for flying in the face of convention — focusing on ‘what could be’ with boundless determination — many times fighting through waves of skepticism and opposition to achieve his vision.”

To view a short film examining Mr. Mitchell’s life, click here.

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