Mitchell and the Barnett Shale
George P. Mitchell died on 26 July 2013 at the age of 94. He left behind a multifaceted legacy that testified to his entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and love of country. Within the oil and gas community, this legacy focused on his work to prove up the Barnett shale unconventional gas resource, which established him as the “Father of the Shale Gas Revolution.” Through his vision, perseverance, and commitment, the knowledge base and application of existing and new technologies not only revolutionized the search for shale gas, but also carried over into tight oil and gas reservoirs, changing the global outlook for both.
Beginnings: Getting Into the Gas Business
George Mitchell entered the oil and gas industry through the encouragement and tutelage of his older brother Johnny. After graduating from Texas A&M University in 1940, earning a degree in petroleum engineering with an emphasis in geology, Mitchell served in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. He began working with his brother on oil prospects while still a member of the Army Corps. He and Johnny established their first company, Oil Drilling Inc., in the late 1940s, with George generating drilling prospects and his brother finding investors.
Ellison Miles, an acquaintance of George’s from his time at A&M, started a drilling company in north Texas after leaving the Army. He and business associate, John A. Jackson, became aware of the potential for a large stratigraphic gas accumulation in Pennsylvanian-age Atoka conglomerates in the Fort Worth basin of Texas and communicated their thoughts to George. Oil Drilling put together the necessary money and took their first lease in the Fort Worth basin, a 3,000-acre tract in southwest Wise County.
In 1952, George Mitchell’s journey to the Barnett began with the drilling of the first well on this lease, the D.J. Hughes No. 1. The well encountered multiple members of productive conglomerates and was completed as a shut-in gas well. According to Kutchin (2001), within 90 days of this discovery, Oil Drilling acquired 300,000 acres in the north Texas area. Subsequent test and re-entry of previously plugged wells confirmed the significance of the find.