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PE notes passing of fracking founder

Cover of Petroleum Economist that noted the passing of fracking founder

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Market Briefing
Published: September 2013
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With fracking now figuring large in news headlines, particularly in the light of successes being reported in the USA, the September issue of 'Petroleum Economist' (PE) carried an obituary for George Mitchell, which it described as 'the god father of fracking'.

The journal notes that it was Mitchell who pioneered the use of hydraulic fracturing to develop shale gas fields. According to PE, he wasn't the inventor of fracking, as the basic techniques had been established when Mitchell served in the US Corp of Engineers during WW2.

His firm, Mitchell Energy & Development, was the first to crack the shale code on a large scale. In the 1980s it was struggling to replace its gas reserves whilst the Federal Government was deregulating natural-gas prices. The firm drilled the first Barnett shale well in Wise Country in 1981. At the time, the perceived wisdom was that Mitchell was wasting his time.

The process took a further 20 years to develop, with the break through coming when engineer Nick Steinsberger recommended a mixture of water and sand. Horizintal drilling - the second element of the technique - had to wait till the 1990s. This led to development of other fields, notably Marcellus in Pennsylvania and later the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale-oil fields.

Fracking remains controversial, but Mitchell believed it could be done safely, commenting: "There are good techniques to make it safe that should be followed".

Mitchell died at the age of 94 in his hometown of Galveston, Texas on 29 July 2013.

'Petroleum Economist' is available on subscription, and is published 10 times a year.


Keith Wallace

See also:

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