March 27, 1954 - April 4, 2018
Buffalo-born geologist Paul M. Basinski has been called "one of the pioneers of fracking" or "one of the fathers of fracking" in news articles and energy industry publications.
One article called him the "mastermind" of the biggest fracking project in Texas history, the discovery of the Eagle Ford oil basin, which was one of the richest oil fields in the world.
According to family members, he was proud of his involvement with the fracking industry, but he also loved the outdoors and did everything he could to minimize the impact that his projects had on the environment.
"Paul once told me, 'Yes, I'm an oil man. But I try to do fracking the right way,' " remembered Thomas Basinski of Getzville, one of his three brothers. "He loved fly fishing, loved hiking, loved kayaking and whitewater rafting. He loved everything about the outdoors. He told me that if you dug a well the right way, if you did the cement work exactly the right way, you could limit the risk to the environment. Keeping the risk to the lowest possible level was important to him."
Mr. Basinski, a Houston resident, died April 4 in a Houston hospital, never regaining consciousness after a heart transplant. He was 64 and had battled heart trouble for years.
While many environmentalists decry fracking as a dangerous process that can cause water pollution, air pollution and climate change, his wife, Rene Basinski, said Mr. Basinski was a strong believer that the fracking industry is America's best hope to end its dependence on oil suppliers from other countries.
"His biggest project was the Eagle Ford oil basin in Texas. Paul was very proud of all the jobs and entrepreneurship that fracking brought to a part of Texas that was on a very serious downslope," Rene Basinski said.
He was a former Town of Tonawanda resident who graduated in 1972 from Sweet Home High School, where he was known to friends as "Buzzy." He was a fun-loving student who was a top performer on the swim team and was fascinated by physics, geology and other scientific studies. In 1976, he graduated with a bachelor's degree from the University at Buffalo's School of Geology.
He earned a master's degree in geology from the University of Nevada, and then embarked on a career in oil and gas exploration that took him all over the world. He worked for companies in Oklahoma, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas, which led him to spend the last 25 years of his life in Houston.
But he always visited family in the Buffalo area once or twice a year, and often gave presentations to geology students at UB.
Mr. Basinski had most recently worked with a company called Burgundy Xploration, where he was the founder and chief executive officer. His last project was called "Operation Icewine," a huge effort in Alaska to begin fracking in a 700,000-acre site inside the Arctic Circle.
If the Alaska project was a success, Mr. Basinski planned to donate most of the proceeds to charity, his wife said.
"Paul did not care about money for himself," she said. "He believed in helping people. If this Alaska project is a success, I will be starting a charitable foundation in Paul's name, and that is where most of the money will go."
His brother said Mr. Basinski was an adventurer who never lost his enthusiasm for science and the outdoors.
"Paul was a true force of nature. His whole life was a high-wire act," Thomas Basinski said. "In a lot of ways, he was a hooligan and an adventurer all his life. In his younger days in the Southwest, he'd hop on a train and ride from one state to another, just do see if he could do it. Any time Paul didn’t know the answer to a question, he would study it and learn about it until he found the answer."
Mr. Basinski and his wife of 36 years, the former Rene Schorzman, were enthusiastic supporters and donors to the Houston Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra is giving a special performance in Mr. Basinski's honor on May 20, with a party to follow.
In addition to his wife and brother, Mr. Basinski is survived by two other brothers, John and Philip.