The oil and gas boom upending worldwide energy markets started in the 1980s with the solitary persistence of George Mitchell, who died Friday at the age of 94 in Galveston, Texas. Now considered a visionary, he was a tenacious, stubborn man when he had an idea he believed in, and he strongly believed that could produce natural gas from the Barnett Shale beneath Fort Worth.
Few in the Texas energy business - normally filled with cock-eyed optimists - thought he would succeed, and even his own engineers thought he was headed down a dry hole. But Mitchell pushed them for 17 years to combine hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling until he finally unlocked the natural gas embedded in the deep shale. Watch his story unfold in a video that reaches far beyond fracking.
"My engineers kept telling me, 'You are wasting your money, Mitchell,'" he was quoted in FuelFix. "And I said, 'Well damn it, let's figure this thing out because there is no question there is a tremendous source bed that's about 250 feet thick.' We made it to be the hottest thing going."
Later in life, Mitchell began using his wealth and power to the help the advancement of science as it relates to the environment. He was instrumental in founding - and funding - the Houston Advanced Research Center, a non-profit scientific and engineering research consortium based in The Woodlands Research Forest. He's also donated millions to his alma mater for the study of theoretical physics.