Over his career, he participated in drilling some 10,000 wells, including more than 1,000 wildcats — wells drilled away from known fields. His company, Mitchell Energy & Development, was credited with more than 200 oil and 350 natural gas discoveries.
The firm spent nearly two decades developing horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, finally finding success in North Texas’ Barnett Shale formation in the 1990s.
“There’s no point in mincing words. Some people thought it was stupid,” Dan Steward, a geologist who began working with the Texas natural gas firm Mitchell Energy in 1981 told The Associated Press in an interview last year. Steward estimated in the early years, “probably 90 percent of the people” in the firm didn’t believe shale gas would be profitable, and that Mitchell’s company didn’t even cover the cost of fracking on shale tests until the 36th well was drilled.
But he credited the company namesake as a tenacious visionary.
“There’s not a lot of companies that would stay with something this long,” he said. “Most companies would have given up.”
“Because of Mitchell’s persistence ... we are today witnessing an unprecedented boom in domestic energy production and the associated economic benefits in Texas and nationwide,” Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman agreed Friday.
Mitchell sold his energy company in 2002 for $3.1 billion.
Over the years, he spent tens of millions rebuilding his hometown of Galveston, resurrecting a long-dormant annual Mardi Gras celebration and providing money to restore the city’s historic downtown Strand District.
He donated the land for Texas A&M University at Galveston.
“To say he was a great man with foresight and generosity isn’t enough,” Adm. Robert Smith III, the school’s president, said. “His contributions to this university literally made this institution possible.”
His Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, founded in 1979, has made more than $400 million in gifts.