Geologists found the Barnett Shale, a rock formation that underlies a 25-county area of North Texas, in the early 20th century. An abundance of natural gas sat trapped in that dense rock, but no one thought it could be recovered economically until George Mitchell started drilling wells in 1981, eventually working out a new method called fracking that tapped shale reserves all over the country.
To date, the Barnett has produced 14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, generating thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue. It has also helped make more than one North Texan spectacularly wealthy.
While the wildcatters drilled, Kelcy Warren built a company to transport that treasure of hydrocarbons. His Energy Transfer Partners and its associated firms now own 70,000 miles of pipeline, employ 26,000 people, and reach far beyond the Barnett. The guy who grew up in the tiny East Texas town of White Oak, the one who himself had to weld pipes after he flunked out of UTA, he now owns an island in Honduras. Forbes says the 58-year-old is worth $5.8 billion.
The easiest way to feel the Barnett’s impact? Spend a day in Klyde Warren Park, the green space that spans Woodall Rodgers and has helped undo some of the damage caused by that concrete canyon. Warren ponied up the naming gift, a reported $10 million, and made his son the eponym.
Warren says he saw his son growing up with a handicap that he didn’t have. He lacked a sense of responsibility. So a stipulation of his gift was that Klyde, now 12, would have to volunteer in the park. The park reflects on the boy. The boy’s actions reflect on the park, on the now famous name.
“I’ve asked them to give him as demeaning a job as he can get,” Warren says. “I wish he had to pick up dog poop every day. Time will tell. I think it’s going to take me another 15 years before I can say, ‘Here, world. Here’s an adult.’ ”