Wealthy oilman George P. Mitchell, known as the father of fracking, passed away at his Texas home last Friday at the age of 94, the Chicago-Sun Times reports. Mitchell’s death was attributed to natural causes. He is survived by his ten children.
George P. Mitchell’s background
The son of a working class Greek immigrant family, Mitchell got his start as a Texas wildcatter with his brother, digging wells in areas with no known oil in the hopes of striking it big. George P. Mitchell’s background in the army corps of engineers and degrees in petrochemical engineering and geology made him the perfect person to take a bite out of the still developing oil industry. He helped drill more than 10,000 wells over the course of his long career, and his company Mitchell Energy and Development is responsible for more than 500 oil and natural gas discoveries.
The tenacity that took George P. Mitchell from a Texas wildcatter to a multi-billionaire oilman also caused him to push forward with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, at a time when the rest of the industry thought it would never turn a profit. After 36 fracking operations, and plenty of pushback, his company finally started making money from fracking, opening the doors to what it is now one of the biggest sources for growth in the energy industry.
Fracking, which uses water and chemicals under extremely high pressures to break open rock shale deposits and release gas, has become as controversial as it is profitable, with many people claiming that the popularity of fracking is turning into an environmental crisis. George P. Mitchell eventually sold his company for $3.1 billion in 2002.
In Texas, Mitchell will be remembered equally as the man who turned around Galveston, his hometown. He donated tens of millions of dollars to the city foe development purposes and renovated the historic Strand District out of his own pocket. Over the years he donated more than $95 million to Texas A&M, his alma mater, as well as the land for the Texas A&M at Galveston college campus.
“He had the right mix of vision, optimism and tenacity, and a love for his fellow man,” said a statement released by George P. Mitchell’s family. “He helped make this world a better place.”