The AP/Yahoo!News is reporting:
[George Mitchell's] technological breakthrough also transformed economies in states like North Dakota, Texas and Pennsylvania is expected to migrate through the world. [sic]
For the entire oil and gas age, drillers had searched for hydrocarbons that had seeped out of layers of sedimentary rock over millions of years and collected into large pools. Once found, they were easy to produce. Engineers merely had to drill into the pools and the natural pressure of the earth would send huge volumes of oil and gas up to the surface.
These pools are exceedingly rare, though, and they were quickly being tapped out as the world's consumption grew, raising fears that the end of the oil and gas age would soon be at hand and raising prices to alarming levels.
Mitchell's idea: Go directly to the sedimentary rock holding the oil and gas, essentially speeding up geological processes by thousands of millennia.
He figured out how to drill into and then along layers of gas-laden rock, then force a slurry of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into the rock to crack it open and release the hydrocarbons. This process, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, is the now-common industry practice known generally as fracking.
Engineers after Mitchell learned to adapt the process to oil-bearing rock. The U.S. is now the world's largest producer of natural gas and is on track to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest oil producer by the end of the decade, according to the International Energy Agency.An important bit of trivia in the article:
In some areas fracking has been blamed for air pollution and gas leaks that have ruined well water, but the Obama administration and many state regulators say the practice is safe when done properly.The naysayers should note:
The firm spent nearly two decades developing horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, finally finding success in North Texas' Barnett Shale formation in the 1990s.
So, since the 1990's -- twenty years of horizontal fracking and not one proven, significant mishap due to horizontal fracking per se, as far as I know. (Don't confuse drilling with fracking when snoping.)"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.
36 wells before they started covering costs.
Something tells me he never worried about the "Red Queen" while becoming a billionaire, number 239 on this year's Forbes' rankings.
The Wall Street Journal also reported.