fracking

Exxon May Crush Bailout Hopes for Suffering Fracking Companies

Read time: 10 mins
Antique truck rusting in the oil fields of Reeves County, Texas, in the Permian Basin.

The Washington Post reported March 10 that the Trump administration was considering some type of financial help for the failing U.S. shale oil and gas industry, “as industry officials close to the administration clamor for help.” Those officials — billionaire shale CEO Harold Hamm was likely among them — seemed desperate for government assistance because, as DeSmog has documented, their deeply indebted businesses have lost billions of dollars during the fracking boom. Even before the recent oil price war and COVID-19 pandemic, these companies could hardly stay afloat, making cries for some type of corporate welfare likely unavoidable. 

But that's not the same message across the entire oil and gas industry.

As Coronavirus Worsened, Trump Admin Pushed Offshore Drilling and Gas Exports

Read time: 6 mins

With major cities and states issuing stay-at-home orders as coronavirus cases have swept throughout the United States, the Trump Administration opened the floodgates for more offshore drilling and issued a permit for a long contested gas export project.

On March 18, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held a lease sale for 397,285 acres of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico that attracted bids by companies such as BP, Chevron, Shell, Total, BHP Billiton and a slew of smaller independent drillers. A day later, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) handed a permit to the long-embattled Jordan Cove LNG export facility, located in Coos Bay, Oregon.

Peak Permian Oil Production May Arrive Much Sooner Than Expected

Read time: 9 mins
Ad in Houston Airport mentioning declining Permian oilfields

In mid-January, Adam Waterous, who operates the private equity firm Waterous Energy Fund, made a prediction about the crown jewel of the U.S. shale oil industry, the Permian shale play that straddles Texas and New Mexico.

We think we are at or near peak Permian,” Waterous told Bloomberg. “The North American oil market has been grossly overcapitalized, which is not sustainable.”

Bloomberg reporter Simon Casey goes on to qualify that “[p]redicting peak Permian output for 2020 isn’t a mainstream view.” However, evidence is piling up that the U.S. shale industry may indeed be close to peaking as it runs out of the two things required to continue increasing oil production: money and what's known as “tier one acreage.”

The Hunt for Fugitive Emissions in the Permian’s Oilfields

Read time: 10 mins
Sharon Wilson in the Permian with her optical gas imaging camera

Meaningful regulation of the fracking industry is a non sequitur to Sharon Wilson, organizer for Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project. She supports her employer’s efforts to encourage tougher industry regulations, but believes that humankind needs to keep oil and gas in the ground if there is any chance of meeting the benchmarks set by the Paris Climate Accord to limit global warming. 

After spending a couple days with Wilson as she monitored for methane leaks at oil and gas industry sites in the Permian oilfields of West Texas, it is easy to understand why she believes that talk of meaningful regulation of the industry lacks meaning itself.  

This Problem With Fracked Oil and Gas Wells Is Occurring 'at an Alarming Rate'

Read time: 13 mins
XTO well pad blowout in Belmont County, Ohio

On February 15, 2018, a fracked natural gas well owned by ExxonMobil's XTO Energy and located in southeast Ohio experienced a well blowout, causing it to gush the potent greenhouse gas methane for nearly three weeks. The obscure accident ultimately resulted in one of the biggest methane leaks in U.S. history. The New York Times reported in December that new satellite data revealed that this single gas well leaked more methane in 20 days than an entire year's worth of methane released by the oil and gas industries in countries like Norway and France.

The cause of this massive leak was a failure of the gas well's casing, or internal lining. Well casing failures represent yet another significant but not widely discussed technical problem for an unprofitable fracking industry

After a Decade of Fracking, Billions of Dollars Lost and a Climate in Crisis

Read time: 13 mins
Partially destroyed house in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy

As 2020 begins, the impacts of climate change have become increasingly clear around the world. The new year started amid devastating wildfires, tied to the worst droughts Australia has experienced in hundreds of years, which encircled much of the continent. So far, 29 people have been reported dead. A University of Sydney professor estimated the number of animals killed likely tops one billion.

Today's climate impacts have been shaped heavily by actions taken during the last 10 years, particularly in the U.S., where the climate benefits of coal power plant retirements were undermined by the rise of natural gas. Global carbon emissions had leveled off in the middle of the last decade, but began to climb again in 2017, breaking records anew each year since.

How One Utah Community Fought the Fracking Industry — and Won

Read time: 14 mins
Red Knoll, Kanab, Utah

By Tara Lohan, The Revelator. Originally posted on The Revalator.

Kanab, a small Utah town that’s home to the famous Best Friends Animal Society, took an unconventional path to face down a frac sand mine that threatened the region’s aquifer.

The Fracking Industry's Methane Problem Is a Climate Problem

Read time: 9 mins
methane gas warning sign

While carbon dioxide — deservedly — gets a bad rap when it comes to climate change, about 40 percent of global warming actually can be attributed to the powerful greenhouse gas methane, according to the 2013 IPCC report. This makes addressing methane emissions critical to stopping additional warming, especially in the near future. Methane is shorter-lived in the atmosphere but 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. 

Atmospheric levels of methane stopped increasing around the year 2000 and at the time were expected to decrease in the future. However, they began increasing again in the last 10 years, spurring researchers to explore why. Robert Howarth, a biogeochemist at Cornell University, recently presented his latest research linking the increase in methane to fossil fuel production, with fracking for natural gas, which is mostly methane, likely a major source. 

While Talking up Climate Action, Oil Majors Eye Argentina’s Shale Reserves

Read time: 11 mins
Rig at sunset in Vaca Muerta

Even as international climate negotiators tried to make progress at the UN climate summit in Madrid in early December, fossil fuel production and consumption has continued to rise, and major oil companies have been seeking new horizons to exploit.

The industry is not slowing down, even in the face of the worsening climate crisis. Although many oil companies signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement, they have simultaneously poured $50 billion into projects since 2018 that are not aligned with climate targets. The industry also has plans to invest $1.4 trillion in new oil and gas projects around the world over the next five years, despite the fact that existing projects contain enough greenhouse gases to use up the remaining carbon budget.

In other words, the oil majors are actively betting on, and are heavily invested in, blowing past climate targets and burning as much carbon as possible, despite protestations from company executives that they are good-faith actors.

Energy Analysts Deliver More Bad News for US Fracking Industry's Business Model

Read time: 7 mins
Oil Fields Near Stanton, TX

This month, the energy consulting firm Wood MacKenzie gave an online presentation that basically debunked the whole business model of the shale industry.

In this webinar, which explored the declining production rates of oil wells in the Permian region, research director Ben Shattuck noted how it was impossible to accurately forecast how much oil a shale play held based on estimates from existing wells.

Over the years of us doing this, as analysts, we’ve learned that you really have to do it well by well,” Shattuck explained of analyzing well performance. “You cannot take anything for granted.”

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