Father of fracking dead at 94

George Mitchell, who doggedly pursued new techniques to extract natural gas from fields other considered unrecoverable, passed away at his home in Galveston. He was 94.

His success in finding a method to extract untapped reserves sparked a new oil and gas boom in the US and countries beyond.

Mitchell was born in 1919 into a Greek immigrant family who operated a cleaning and shoe shine business. He earned a degree from Texas A&M University in petroleum engineering. His self-named oil and gas company, Mitchell Energy & Company, became a Fortune 500 company.

In the '80s and '90s he worked on his idea for horizontal drilling of natural gas in shale rock formations. He spent $6 million of his own money trying to solve the problem, a sum the Economist calls ". . . the best-spent development money in the history of gas."

"Big oil and gas companies were interested in shale gas but could not make the breakthrough in fracking to get the gas to flow. Mr Mitchell spent ten years and $6m to crack the problem (surely the best-spent development money in the history of gas). Everyone, he said, told him he was just wasting his time and money.".

Ten years ago Forbes ranked Mitchell as one of the 500 richest people worldwide. His net worth was estimated at $1.6 billion.

Mitchel was a philanthropist and donated $159 million to universities and research organizations.

Image of George P. Mitchell from Texas A&M University to honour a $20 million legacy gift