Natural Gas Sustainability
George P. Mitchell was an early pioneer of shale gas discovery and production and is credited for making shale gas extraction commercially viable through hydraulic fracturing technologies. He was considered an elder statesman in the natural gas industry, taking a leadership role in addressing the challenges of shale gas production.
At the same time, George had a long history of supporting his keen interests in science and sustainability.
Because of George's position in the natural gas industry, environmental, and science circles, the foundation is able to lend its voice—and be heard above the rhetoric about natural gas and hydraulic fracturing—to the ongoing dialogue and debate about the development of this important energy resource.
The foundation supports the emerging regulatory, industry, environmental and academic efforts to reduce the negative environmental and community impacts of shale formation development and hydraulic fracturing while capturing the energy, environmental, and economic benefits of natural gas.
The unresolved challenges related to shale development and natural gas can be divided into two broad categories. The first set of questions involves natural gas as a fuel source, including to what extent fugitive methane emissions occur and how these emissions can be minimized; and to what extent abundant natural gas displaces renewable energy and energy efficiency in electricity generation. The second set of questions involves the risk of impact from hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to develop shale formations. These technologies have a distinct risk to the environment and communities that can be economically managed.
The Natural Gas Sustainability program supports a number of solution-driven tactics, including a
1. meta-analysis of methane studies completed to date to better understand the wide variation in results in estimates of methane leakage rates;
2. comprehensive analysis of the market structure, pricing, and technological barriers to better integration of renewables and gas in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) system; and
3. collaborative and inclusive effort to modernize the regulatory scheme for oil and gas operations in Texas, which the foundation believes is needed because regulations have not kept pace with the use of advanced drilling technologies, including hydraulic fracturing.