Fracking pioneer dead at 94

George Mitchell, who died Friday, combined horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing to become one of the nation's wealthiest men.
by Adam Wilmoth Published: July 27, 2013

Billionaire Texas oilman and fracking pioneer George P. Mitchell died Friday at his home in Galveston, Texas.

He was 94.

The son of a Greek goat herder, Mitchell became one of the wealthiest men in the United States.

Mitchell's idea of combining horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing — the process of injecting pressurized water and sand into rock formations to release oil and natural gas — sparked a flood of oil and natural gas throughout the United States, quickly reversing more than 40 years of U.S. production declines.

Mitchell's family announced his death Friday on the family foundation website.

“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.”

The statement said he died of natural causes while surrounded by family.

Hydraulic fracturing had been used by the industry for decades, but Mitchell developed a unique blend of water, sand and other additives at a specific pressure that was successful in the Barnett Shale formation in North Texas.

In 2002, Mitchell sold his company to Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp. in a deal worth $3.5 billion.

by Adam Wilmoth
Energy Editor
Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector....
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