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Is shale oil a sustainable business model?

The drilling of shale oil has been hailed as revolution that has brought cheap gas and oil to American and made America a net exporter of oil and natural gas. However, there is serious debate as to whether shale is a sustainable business model given the high number of bankruptcies in the sector. What are the positions on the shale operating model?

Shale oil is not economical except at extremely high prices

Shale oil and natural gas are extremely capital intensive, and buying land, drilling and extracting the oil is far more expensive than drillers will admit to. Proof of this is that we have seen hundreds of shale oil companies go bust and almost no shale oil companies produce any free cash flow.

Shale oil companies have gone bust, many repeatedly

Hundreds of defaults and billions of dollars of defaulted bonds show that the shale oil business model was not sustainable.

Shale drilling is bad for the environment, independent of any poor financial outcomes

Shale oil destroys the landscape and leaves a large pockmarked surface polluted by chemicals. The long run environmental problems of shale make it a poor business model, as communities are left to pick up the pieces.

Shale drilling leaks toxic chemicals into drinking water

The hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process of shale poses significant threats to water supplies.

Shale oil extraction results in air pollution

Fracking releases cancer-causing chemicals into the air. Such a reality forces residents to move far away from their homes in hopes of protecting their families. Those who cannot move away are punished by the conditions that were not their doing. Fracking companies deny the existence of fracking induced air-pollution.

Shale is a viable, sustainable business model given improvements in technology and prices

The ability for drillers to learn quickly and improve production has brougth down shale's true cost of extraction far below the market price of oil

Shale drilling has created more jobs in the oil drilling industry

The extraction of "shale" oil—known as "fracking"—has significantly increased the number of jobs available in the industry, and has been a boost to the economy.

U.S. oil and natural gas production has skyrocketed

Hydraulic fracturing is perhaps the most important energy discovery in the last half-century. However, do the costs of such an advancement outway the benefits?

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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 12 Aug 2020 at 15:06 UTC