"Let's fracture it anyway:" More on George Mitchell

george_mitchell Ladies and gentlemen, The Godfather of Gas, the Santa Claus of Shale, the Wizard of The Woodlands, Mr. George Mitchell. (Nick de la Torre/Chronicle)

This weekend we wrote about the important role George Mitchell and Mitchell Energy played in making the current boom in natural gas drilling possible. I could only include small parts of the story given the space we work with, so here are a few other thoughts:
• When talking about the early days Mitchell made a point to mention his other partners in the business, his brother Johnny and H. Merlyn Christie, as does the history of the Barnett shale that Dan Steward wrote (you can order it online here). I simply didn’t have the space to dwell on those figures too.

• Mitchell and Steward regularly dropped the names of all sorts of other team members, and the book on the Barnett has detailed accounts. There were plenty at the firm who were key in the decades of work it took to figure out how to get gas from the shale economically. I was able to fit in one — Jim Henry, a geologist who wrote a technical paper suggesting that the Barnett could be the area’s key source rock. Another was, Nick Steinberger, who suggested switching from costly and complicated gel fracs to simple water fracs. There was resistance to trying such a simple technique, but Mitchell gave it the green light and it worked.

• It really wasn’t until Devon bought Mitchell in 2002 that hydraulic fracturing was married to horizontal drilling in any meaningful way. The folks at Devon deserve a lot of credit for that.

• I am well aware of the recent concerns raised by hydraulic fracturing as natural gas exploration spreads to other parts of the country that haven’t experienced the industry before. I will be rolling out stories on those issues too.

• Finally, George Mitchell may have sold off the company but he’s not done drilling. With his son, Todd, Mitchell has a handful of rigs working in the Marcellus shale.
Some habits are just too hard to break.

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