Finances of Fracking: Shale Industry Drills More Debt Than Profit

Since 2007, the oil and gas industry has lost $280 billion betting on the shale boom, which has been made possible by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and Wall Street financing, and these companies are still borrowing heavily. But even as the industry struggles to recoup costs — much less profits — by continuing to borrow and drill, the great promise of the shale revolution is also threatened by another specter: declining production at each well.

In this series, DeSmog’s Justin Mikulka and Sharon Kelly investigate the finances of the fracking industry and how falling fossil fuel output and questionable lending practices reminiscent of the mid-2000s housing bubble may be setting up another bubble, one with a bill that may ultimately be paid by American taxpayers and the planet.

Image: Wyoming's Jonah gas field is marked by a network of well pads, roads, and pipelines. Credit: Bruce Gordon, EcoFlight, CC BY 2.0

In this series

In the climactic final scene in There Will Be Blood — arguably the greatest movie about the oil...
By Justin Mikulka, 10 Aug, 2018
Deepwater Horizon oil rig on fire in Gulf of Mexico
The oil and gas industry is finally acknowledging how dangerous employment can be for its workers...
By Justin Mikulka, 19 Jul, 2018
Fracking rig workers
At a recent industry conference, Terry Spencer, head of natural gas infrastructure company ONEOK,...
By Justin Mikulka, 29 Jun, 2018
Oil pumpjacks in silhouette
Back in 2011, The New York Times first raised concerns about the reliability of America's proved...
By Sharon Kelly, 14 Jun, 2018
Flip this well logo on top of oil pumpjacks
Last year the fracking company Halcón Resources announced a new strategy that was sold as the path...
By Justin Mikulka, 29 May, 2018
Stock market numbers over oil drill pumpjack
Most people probably aren’t familiar with the acronym ZIRP. It stands for zero interest rate policy...
By Justin Mikulka, 11 May, 2018
Solar panels and oil pumpjack
About a half decade ago, as the shale drilling rush was sweeping across the U.S., drillers needed...
By Sharon Kelly, 6 May, 2018
Wall Street sign
The U.S. shale oil industry hailed as a “revolution” has burned through a quarter trillion dollars...
By Justin Mikulka, 4 May, 2018
A Scrabble board spells out 'Bankruptcy' overlaid on an unconventional oil and gas rig
EOG Resources is one of the top companies in the fracking industry, and thanks to the new tax bill...
By Justin Mikulka, 26 Apr, 2018
Gas pump
Shale oil, which the Energy Information Administration projects will represent a rising proportion...
By Sharon Kelly, 24 Apr, 2018
Balmorhea State Park with views of oil and gas well flares
If you ask the CEO of Apache Corp., his company made in 2016 the kind of once-in-a-lifetime find...
By Sharon Kelly, 19 Apr, 2018
Natural gas drilling well pad in Wyoming
In 2008, Aubrey McClendon was the highest paid Fortune 500 CEO in America, a title he earned taking...
By Justin Mikulka, 18 Apr, 2018