In 2015, Pioneer Natural Resources filed a report with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, in which the shale drilling and fracking company said that it was “drilling the most productive wells in the Eagle Ford Shale” in Texas.
That made the company a major player in what local trade papers were calling “arguably the largest single economic event in Texas history,” as drillers pumped more than a billion barrels of fossil fuels from the Eagle Ford.
Its Eagle Ford wells, Pioneer’s filing said, were massive finds, with each well able to deliver an average of roughly 1.3 million barrels of oil and other fossil fuels over their lifetimes.
Three years later, The Wall Street Journal checked the numbers, investigating how those massive wells are turning out for Pioneer.
Turns out, not so well. And Pioneer is not alone.
Those 1.3 million-barrel wells, the Journal reported, “now appear to be on a pace to produce about 482,000 barrels” apiece — a little over a third of what Pioneer told investors they could deliver.
In Texas’ famed Permian Basin, now the nation’s most productive shale oil field, where Pioneer predicted 960,000 barrels from each of its shale wells in 2015, the Journal concluded that those “wells are now on track to produce about 720,000 barrels” each.
Not only are the wells already drying up at a much faster rate than the company predicted, according to the Journal’s investigative report, but Pioneer’s projections require oil to flow for at least 50 years after the well was drilled and fracked — a projection experts told the Journal would be “extremely optimistic.”
Fracking every one of those wells required a vast amount of chemicals, sand, and water. In Karnes County, Texas, one of the two Eagle Ford counties where Pioneer concentrated its drilling in 2015, the average round of fracking that year drank uproughly 143,000 barrels of water per well.
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