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Mitchell's Tenacity led to US Energy Boom
by Jonathan Fahey
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) The technological breakthrough pioneered by George P. Mitchell, the billionaire Texas oilman and philanthropist who died Friday at age 94, reversed the fortunes of the U.S. energy industry and reshaped the global energy landscape.
 

As Mitchell was doggedly pursuing the natural gas he and others knew was trapped in thin layers of sedimentary rock under several U.S. states, it appeared to most that the world was running out of oil and gas and what was left was found mostly in the Middle East.
 

U.S. natural gas production had peaked in 1972 and prices were rising to alarming new levels in the middle of the 2000s, raising heating and electricity bills and sending U.S. manufacturers of plastics, fertilizer and countless other natural gas-dependent goods overseas.

 


Photo courtesy of The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Cynthia & George Mitchell
 

U.S. oil production, meanwhile, had peaked in 1970, and fell every year but one between 1985 and 2008.
 

But after 20 years of trying, Mitchell finally learned how to combine horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing, a process together known now generally as fracturing, to release natural gas at a rate fast enough to turn a profit. But the practice has also sparked powerful antagonism, especially in the Northeast, from residents and environmentalists opposed to increased industrial activity in rural areas and concerned that the c process or the wastewater it generates can contaminate drinking water.
 

By the mid-2000s, fracturing had spread across the industry and the country, and natural gas production in the U.S. began to soar in such places as Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. In 2005, the U.S. produced 19 million cubic feet of gas, about the same amount produced in 1968. Last year, the U.S. produced 25 million cubic feet, a U.S. record and more gas than any other nation. And all this while drillers held back: They would have produced more if prices hadn't fallen to 20-year lows.

 

 

The Courier
July 27, 2013

 

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