George Mitchell's 17-year mission to crack the Barnett Shale

Everything George P. Mitchell did flew in the face of convention. It’s no wonder that the process he pioneered is commonly called “unconventional” drilling.

The wildcatter tried for 17 years to find the right cocktail of chemicals that would crack the Barnett Shale. He did it in spite of so many naysayers who never thought it would work.

“A lot of people have a hard time seeing beyond where they are at right now. George Mitchell is a visionary,” said Dan Steward, who was vice president of exploration for Mitchell Energy.

Mitchell, who will be 94 this month, was recognized on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives Monday by Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston with a resolution. Family, friends and co-workers attended in Mitchell’s place.

What started as a tiny frack in 1981 evolved over the years to a water-based frack in 1997 that finally yielded results that were commercially viable.

Now, that same technique is used in oil and gas plays across Texas in the Eagle Ford Shale, the Permian Basin and across the country in the Bakken and Marcellus shales to name a few.

“This has totally revolutionized the world’s vision of gas,” Steward said. “We went from a world that’s running out of gas to a world with enough gas to last us another 100 to 150 years.”

David Mahmood, founder and chairman of Allegiance Capital Corporation, has seen a huge transformation in the energy sector and he attributes much of that to Mitchell. Allegiance Capital facilitates mergers and acquisitions for all types of companies but energy-related companies now take up 45 percent of their business at the company's Dallas headquarters.

Unconventional drilling has made energy companies sustainable and less volatile so they draw more interest from private equity firms in the last few years, he said. The fracking revolution puts the country on the path to energy independence, something nobody thought possible.

“The far-reaching effect is going to be as great as the transistor. It is world changing. It’s going to change our geopolitics. If you look at North America, we’re well on the way to self sufficiency. Why would we go to Africa or the Middle East? We’re not going to have any need for that.”

He and his wife Cynthia also founded the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation to pursue sustainability research for the world’s future.

He had this same determination with everything he did, said his daughter, Sheridan Mitchell Lorenz. Whether it was developing The Woodlands, working to create sustainable energy, restoring the historic area of Galveston or just fishing with his family he had the right mix of stubbornness and optimism to keep going.

The Woodlands is a master planned community outside Houston that he envisioned as a sustainable community mixing suburban development with nature trails and open space. named The Woodlands the top city in Texas for young families.

An outdoor concert pavilion in The Woodlands is named after Cynthia Woods Mitchell.

Lorenz rarely heard much about the work her father did and it wasn’t until years later that she read how critical his contribution would be.

“He doesn’t make a big deal out of it at all,” she said. “The more you realize the impact he had on energy security, national security and our economy, you begin to see what was driving him.”

To hear Perry and other legislators from throughout Texas talk about her father, really was an honor, she said.

She added that her father is an environmentalist at heart and he wants to make sure that hydraulic fracturing is done responsibly and safely.

“He was always one to make sure that drilling practices were done as cleanly as possible," Lorenz said.

At the same time, she acknowledges that renewable energy can't handle the whole load.

"It would be nice if windmills or solar could power the whole world," she said.

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