Subsurface Energy

George P. Mitchell was an early pioneer of shale gas discovery and production and is credited for making shale development commercially viable. He was considered an elder statesman in the industry, taking a leadership role in addressing the challenges of shale production. 

At the same time, George had a long history of supporting his keen interests in science and sustainability. Because of George's position in the oil and gas industry, the environmental community, and science circles, the foundation is able to lend its voice to the ongoing dialogue and debate about shale development. 

The foundation focuses on improving the governance of subsurface energy development in addition to supporting efforts to reduce the negative environmental and community impacts of shale gas development.

The unresolved challenges related to shale development and natural gas can be divided into two broad categories.

The first set of questions involves natural gas as a fuel source, including to what extent fugitive methane emissions occur and how these emissions can be minimized and to what extent abundant natural gas displaces renewable energy and energy efficiency in electricity generation.

The second set of questions involves the risk of impact from hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to develop shale formations. These technologies have a distinct risk to the environment and communities but these risks can be economically managed.

The Subsurface Energy Program supports a number of solution-driven strategies, including

1. examination of the interplay between federal, state, and local governance around shale development and protocol development to guide industry-community interactions;

2. comprehensive analysis of the risks associated with shale resource development, especially with respect to ground and surface water; and

3. support for collaborative and inclusive efforts to modernize the regulatory scheme for oil and gas operations in the state of Texas, which the foundation believes is needed because regulations may not have kept pace with the use of advanced drilling technologies.

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