Houston oilman George P. Mitchell has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gas Technology Institute. The founder of Mitchell Energy & Development Corp., Mitchell received the prestigious honour for pioneering hydraulic fracturing and drilling technologies that created a shale gas revolution. Mitchell was given the award at the “Global Unconventional Gas 2010: Unlocking Your Potential” conference as energy professionals from around the world met in Amsterdam June 16, 2010.
For 17 years, visionary Mitchell insisted the impossible was possible. A petroleum engineer with geology training from Texas A&M University, Mitchell believed natural gas could be extracted from shale when no one else did. Not wanting his oil wells to go to waste in the event of flow shortages, Mitchell had his employees drill into an area known as the Barnett Shale for hydrocarbons. Despite the cautioning of his engineers that the endeavor could prove futile, Mitchell gave the order to fracture the rock.
The company invested more than 30 wells to test different processes of hydraulic fracturing, with some wells’ production barely even covering the cost of operation. Yet Mitchell remained steadfast, continuing to analyze test results that yielded the greatest return, and eventually completed the first successful instance of using hydraulic fracturing to drill into shale for natural gas. The results were staggering – many experts believe the Barnett Shale may be the largest onshore natural gas field in the United States, containing more than an estimated 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
In recent years, advances in drilling technology have made it possible for energy companies to extract large amounts of natural gas from the Barnett Shale. Devon Energy Corporation acquired Mitchell Energy & Development Corp. in 2002 and added the innovation of horizontal drilling to make shale gas wells even more productive. The two techniques have subsequently revolutionized the unconventional shale gas play.
What started with Mitchell’s vision and passion for unconventional development has spread to application to other gas shales throughout North America and Europe. Embracing unconventional gas opportunities has transformed the U.S. energy picture. In less than a decade, a view that the U.S. was running out of gas and would require tremendous imports of LNG has been transformed to a projected 100 years or more of projected supplies of gas, enabling a sustainable affordable energy source that provides new choices on how natural gas resources are used. Mitchell is an inspiration to all those who are building on his legacy to make the unconventional conventional.
“I’m truly honored to be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gas Technology Institute. I believe that the United States should examine all forms of natural gas in order to ease our dependence on coal and foreign oil,” said George P. Mitchell. “It is my hope that my efforts will aid the search for new and unconventional energy sources that can be used by my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
Keynote presentations at the “Global Unconventional Gas 2010: Unlocking Your Potential” conference included energy notables such as Aubrey K. McClendon, Chairman and CEO, Chesapeake Energy Corporation; Dr. Abdul Rahim Hashim, President, IGU; Christopher Flavin, President, Worldwatch Institute; Chris Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy; and leading shale technology, resource, and business experts, as well as prominent European and global energy officials.