Texas oilman, fracking pioneer Mitchell dies at 94

Associated PressJuly 27, 2013 

HOUSTON -- Billionaire Texas oilman, developer and philanthropist George P. Mitchell, considered the father of fracking, died Friday at his home in Galveston, his family said.

He was 94.

Mitchell, the son of a Greek immigrant who ran a dry cleaning business in Galveston, became one of the wealthiest men in the U.S. He is considered the chief pioneer of hydraulic fracturing, the now common industry process known as fracking that uses chemicals with water under high pressure to crack open rock formations and release oil

and natural gas.

The process has led to an energy industry boom.

Mitchell's family, on the family foundation website, said he died of natural causes while surrounded by relatives.

Over his career, he participated in drilling some 10,000 wells, including more than 1,000 wildcats -- wells drilled away from known fields. His company, Mitchell Energy & Development, was credited with more than 200 oil and 350 natural gas discoveries.

The firm spent nearly two decades developing hydraulic fracturing, finally finding success in North Texas' Barnett Shale formation in the 1990s.

"There's no point in mincing words. Some people thought it was stupid," Dan Steward, a geologist who began working with the Texas natural gas firm Mitchell Energy in 1981 told The Associated Press in an interview last year. Steward estimated in the early years, "probably 90 percent of the people" in the firm didn't believe shale gas would be profitable, and that Mitchell's company didn't even cover the cost of fracking on shale tests until the 36th well was drilled.

But he credited the company namesake as a tenacious visionary.

"There's not a lot of companies that would stay with something this long," he said. "Most companies would have given up."

"Because of Mitchell's persistence ... we are today witnessing an unprecedented boom in domestic energy production and the associated economic benefits in Texas and nationwide," Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman agreed Friday.

Mitchell sold his energy company in 2002 for $3.1 billion.

According to his biography posted by the Mitchell Foundation, the North Texas gas field that became the foundation of his oil empire was the result of a deal promoted by a Chicago bookmaker.

"His story was quintessentially American," the family statement said. "George P. Mitchell was raised as a child of meager means who, throughout his life, believed in giving back to the community that made his success possible and lending a hand to the less fortunate struggling to reach their potential.

"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."

George Phydias Mitchell and his wife, Cynthia, who died in 2009, had 10 children. Their work together was "dedicated to making the world a more hospitable and sustainable place," their family said.

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service