Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Father of Shale Gas (and his Helpers)

I love reading the occasional piece on George Mitchell, the commercial father of shale gas.  There is a good piece in the Wall Street Journal today on Mr. Mitchell.  Beginning in the early 1980s, he spent more than a decade perfecting the processes of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling on a commercial basis, drilling many dud wells in the process.  Once he perfected his techniques in the Barnett Shale, he was able to sell his company Mitchell Resources to Devon Energy for $3.1 billion.

I refer to him as the "commercial father" of shale gas because it is easy to overlook the years of investment in research and development by the Department of Energy and other governmental agencies that helped create the shale boom.  Major components of shale gas exploration and production, including sophisticated mapping techniques, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, had their start in government labs and government-funded programs.  The government didn't make Mr. Mitchell a rich man, but it gave him the tools to create his own success.

I bring this up not to downplay the role of Mr. Mitchell - his tenacity and willingness to risk his business brought shale gas to the market - but to reminded ourselves of the old cliche that no man is an island.  Often the story of the self-made man overshadows the reality of the work of others.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify hydraulic fracture stimulation and horizontal drilling techniques existed long before shale gas and were utilized to develop low permeability sandstone reservoirs. Also, Mitchell/Devon's initial development of the Barnett Shale utilized vertical rather than horizontal wells because their acreage was located above the thick part of the formation. Other companies were the first to extensively utilize horizontal wells when they entered the field in the mid 90's.

Les