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How Has the US Fracking Boom Affected Air Pollution in Shale Areas?

How Has the US Fracking Boom Affected Air Pollution in Shale Areas?

Trucks in front of a flare at a fracking site

Urban air pollution in the U.S. has been decreasing near continuously since the 1970s.

Federal regulations, notably the Clean Air Act passed by President Nixon, to reduce toxic air pollutants such as benzene, a hydrocarbon, and ozone, a strong oxidant, effectively lowered their abundance in ambient air with steady progress.

But about 10 years ago, the picture on air pollutants in the U.S. started to change. The “fracking boom” in several different parts of the nation led to a new source of hydrocarbons to the atmosphere, affecting abundances of both toxic benzene and ozone, including in areas that were not previously affected much by such air pollution.

As a result, in recent years there has been a spike of research to determine what the extent of emissions are from fracked oil and gas wells — called “unconventional” sources in the industry. While much discussion has surrounded methane emissions, a greenhouse gas, less attention has been paid to air toxics.

Upstream Emissions

Fracking is a term that can stir strong emotions among its opponents and proponents. It is actually a combination of techniques, including hydraulic fracturing, that has allowed drillers to draw hydrocarbons from rock formations which were once not profitable to tap.

Drillers shatter layers of shale rock with high-pressure water, sand and chemicals to start the flow of hydrocarbons from a well. The hydraulic fracturing process itself, aside from its large demand for water, is possibly the least environmentally impactful step along the complete operational chain of drilling for hydrocarbons. Arguably, the more relevant environmental effects are wastewater handling and disposal, as well as the release of vapors from oil and gas storage and distribution.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

U.S. SHALE GAS INDUSTRY: Countdown To Disaster

U.S. SHALE GAS INDUSTRY: Countdown To Disaster

u-s-shale-gas-disaster-blurThe countdown has started as the demise of the great U.S. shale gas industry has begun.  This will have a disastrous impact on the U.S. economy as shale gas production declines in a big way.  Unfortunately, very few Americans understand how sickly the domestic shale gas industry truly is, because they have been brainwashed to believe the United States is heading towards energy independence.

For the U.S. to become energy independent, it would have to add at least another five million barrels per day of oil production.  At the peak in February 2015, the U.S. shale oil industry produced a little more than five million barrels of oil per day.  However, the real problem is not the doubling of U.S. shale oil production, rather it’s being able to make a profit in the process.

The U.S. shale oil and gas industry hasn’t made any real money since 2009.  This is especially true for one of the largest natural gas producers in the United States.  Chesapeake Energy, which is the second largest natural gas producer in the country, hasn’t made a lousy nickel for at least the past ten years:

chesapeake-energy-free-cash-flow-table

This table comes from the website, gurufocus.com.  If you click on the Chesapeake Free Cash Flow link at gurufocus.com, you will see the very same table by scrolling down the page.  According to gurufocus, their definition of Free Cash Flow is the following:

Free Cash Flow is considered one of the most important parameters to measure a company’s earnings power by value investors because it is not subject to estimates of Depreciation, Depletion and Amortization (DDA).  Over the long term, Free Cash Flow should give pretty good picture on the real earnings power of the company.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Three Wacky Accounting Numbers for LNG and Shale Gas

Three Wacky Accounting Numbers for LNG and Shale Gas

Close read of BC’s budget shows realities of this subsidized industry boondoggle.

Three things don’t add up in the British Columbia budget when it comes to declining revenues from the battered shale gas industry and its non-existent cousin, the province’s liquefied natural gas fantasy.

The first concerns revenue. Premier Christy Clark promised in 2013 that profits from the LNG industry would pour like manna into a $100-billion provincial prosperity fund.

In the months before the election that year, the government persuaded citizens that a complex, high-cost and foreign-owned industry, tied to a volatile greenhouse gas, could somehow make the province debt-free and bless it with Alberta-like prosperity.

Twenty LNG proponents all lined up at the government trough, expecting low royalties and taxes. But not one of the 20 proponents has committed to go ahead with a LNG project, because the economic justification has vanished in a sea of volatility. Many are folding, such as the Douglas Channel LNG project, because of what industry calls “unfavourable market conditions.”

New LNG terminals in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Angola have created an oversupply while demand is falling in key markets like Japan, South Korea and China due to economic stagnation. Prices for LNG are expected to remain in the tank for years or become as volatile as oil.

No matter. Faced with her pet industry’s dire prospects, Premier Clark took $100 million, about what the province will bring in through higher Medical Services Plan premiums, and boldly placed those hard-won tax dollars into B.C.’s newly created LNG prosperity fund.

Clark is trying to preserve the illusion of a revenue stream that doesn’t exist. In so doing, her government has out-Orwelled Orwell with some very creative explanations.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

ANOTHER NAIL IN THE U.S. EMPIRE COFFIN: Collapse Of Shale Gas Production Has Begun

ANOTHER NAIL IN THE U.S. EMPIRE COFFIN: Collapse Of Shale Gas Production Has Begun

The U.S. Empire is in serious trouble as the collapse of its domestic shale gas production has begun.  This is just another nail in a series of nails that have been driven into the U.S. Empire coffin.

Unfortunately, most investors don’t pay attention to what is taking place in the U.S. Energy Industry.  Without energy, the U.S. economy would grind to a halt.  All the trillions of Dollars in financial assets mean nothing without oil, natural gas or coal.  Energy drives the economy and finance steers it.  As I stated several times before, the financial industry is driving us over the cliff.

The Great U.S. Shale Gas Boom Is Likely Over For Good

Very few Americans noticed that the top four shale gas fields combined production peaked back in July 2015.  Total shale gas production from the Barnett, Eagle Ford, Haynesville and Marcellus peaked at 27.9 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in July and fell to 26.7 Bcf/d by December 2015:

Top-U.S.-Shale-Gas-Fields-Production

As we can see from the chart, the Barnett and Haynesville peaked four years ago at the end of 2011.  Here are the production profiles for each shale gas field:

Barnett-Shale-Gas-Field

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), the Barnett shale gas production peaked on November 2011 and is down 32% from its high.  The Barnett produced a record 5 Bcf/d of shale gas in 2011 and is currently producing only 3.4 Bcf/d.  Furthermore, the drilling rig count in the Barnett is down a stunning 84% in over the past year.

Haynesville-Shale-Gas-Field

The Haynesville was the second to peak on Jan 2012 at 7.2 Bcf/d per day and is currently producing 3.6 Bcf/d.  This was a huge 50% decline from its peak.  Not only is the drilling rig count in the Haynesville down 57% in a year, it fell another five rigs this past week.  There are only 18 drilling rigs currently working in the Haynesville.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Miracle of American Oil”: Continental Resources Courted Corporate Media to Sell Oil Exports

“Miracle of American Oil”: Continental Resources Courted Corporate Media to Sell Oil Exports

document published by the Public Relations Society of America, discovered by DeSmog, reveals that from the onset of its public relations campaign, the oil industry courted mainstream media reporters to help it sell the idea of lifting the ban on crude oil exports to the American public and policymakers.

Calling its campaign the “Miracle of American Oil,” the successful PR effort to push for Congress and the White House to lift the oil exports ban was spearheaded by Continental Resources, a company known as the “King of the Bakken” shale oil basin and founded by Harold Hamm. Hamm served as energy advisor to 2012 Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Miracle of American Oil

Image Credit: Public Relations Society of America

The campaign launched on December 16, 2013, the 40th anniversary of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil embargo, and won the prestigious PRSA Silver Anvil Award.

According to the document, submitted to PRSA to detail the logistics and reach of the PR effort, it was “designed to influence public policy and/or affect legislation, regulations, political activities or candidacies — at the local, state or federal government levels.”

And it all began with a kick-off dinner in Washington, D.C., hosted by Continental Resources and attended by some of the most influential mainstream media energy reporters in the United States.

Regular readers of the Washington oil and gas industry beat will find the names of the dinner attendees, disclosed in the document, familiar.

Miracle of American Oil

Image Credit: Public Relations Society of America

“The campaign not only served as a catalyst to correct public misconceptions, but it also propelled crude oil exports to the top of the U.S. Senate’s agenda,” Continental boasted on the PRSA document.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

America’s Top Shale Gas Basin in Decline

America’s Top Shale Gas Basin in Decline

The natural gas drilling frenzy is grinding to a halt, as the industry struggles with excess supply.

Natural gas prices have plunged to their lowest levels in more than a decade this month, dipping below $1.80 per million Btu (MMBtu).

The shale gas revolution is an old story at this point, one that everyone is familiar with. But the revolution never really ended, even though the media moved on to focus on the tight oil boom. Natural gas production continued to rise over the past decade, reaching record heights in 2015.

However, demand has not kept up, despite the rise in the natural gas power burn. Gas-fired power plants are replacing coal for electricity generation, but not quickly enough to soak up all of the extra supply coming out of U.S. shale.

Natural gas storage levels, meanwhile, are overflowing due to the unseasonably warm weather across much of the United States. For natural gas producers, this is a nightmare situation with Henry Hub prices falling to levels that are extremely difficult to turn a profit. The low prices forced the iconic Chesapeake Energy, the U.S.’ second largest natural gas producer, into a debt swap to push out maturity dates for its debt. Chesapeake’s stock price has plunged 80 percent over the past year, and has dropped by 20 percent since the beginning of December.

There is a bit of hope for the market, as natural gas prices surged by 8 percent on December 21 because colder weather is starting to appear over the horizon, pointing to higher demand. But that will only nip around the edges of the nation’s glut in supply.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is This The End Of The U.S Shale Gas Revolution

Is This The End Of The U.S Shale Gas Revolution

While everyone is watching the oil bust, there is another bust going on – one for natural gas.

Before there was a boom in oil production in the United States, there was the “shale gas revolution.” That is where we all became familiar with terms like “fracking.” And the Marcellus, Haynesville, and Barnett Shales were famous long before the Bakken or Permian.

The surge in natural gas production crashed prices, fueling a huge increase in activity in petrochemicals and causing a major switch from coal to natural gas in the electric power industry. Aside from a few brief moments (such as the winter of 2014), natural gas has mostly traded around $4 per million Btu (MMBtu) or lower since the financial crisis of 2008.

Related: Environmental Groups Target Fossil Fuel Production On Federal Lands

(Click to enlarge)

But unlike oil, the boom in shale gas did not stop with plummeting prices. U.S. natural gas production continued to climb. For example, production from the prolific Marcellus Shale – which spans Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio – skyrocketed from less than 2 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d) in 2009, to arecord-high of over 16.5 bcf/d this year. And the dramatic ramp up in production occurred over several years when prices were extremely low.

Much of that has to do with the huge innovations in drilling techniques, including fracking and horizontal drilling, which allowed for production to remain profitable despite the downturn in prices. But some of the credit also goes to drillers searching for more lucrative natural gas liquids and crude oil. Dry natural gas is produced in association with oil. With oil prices extremely high, especially in the period between 2010 and 2014, drillers continued to produce natural gas even if they were looking for oil.

 

 

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Australian Aboriginals Fear Gas Fracker Aubrey McClendon’s Down Under Drilling Plans

Energy companies the world over would love to think they could be first in the queue at the next big global frontier for fossil fuel energy.

Aubrey McClendon was a key figure in creating the last big energy boom in his own backyard, using the controversial hydraulic fracturing technology to release gas from shale in the United States.

Now McClendon’s company American Energy Partners (AEP) thinks it has found that new global frontier in a vast and remote corner of Australia’s Northern Territory (NT).

AEP has made two major investments in the NT in recent weeks where drillers hope McClendon will kick-start another fracking boom. McClendon built his former company Chesapeake Energy from the ground up to become a major player in the United States shale gas fracking boom.

At one point, only ExxonMobil was producing more gas than Chesapeake.

But already McClendon’s hopes of recreating a US-style gas “fracking” boom in Australia are coming up against resistance from Aboriginal Australians — one of the oldest continuous cultural groups on the planet.

Land grab

Exploration licences cover many millions of acres of land in the NT and many of those are with a view to drilling for gas using hydraulic fracturing — a process where large amounts of water, sand and chemicals are pumped at pressure to create small cracks in the rocks to release the gas.

A key to McClendon’s success in the U.S. was in acquiring rights over huge land areas of prospective shale gas, a tactic he appears to be trying to mirror in Australia. Chesapeake Energy called this a “land grab” business strategy.

McClendon is also known for his financial risk taking, a trait that caused one analyst at business magazine Forbes to dub him “America’s most reckless billionaire

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Once Burned, Twice Shy? Utica Shale Touted to Investors As Shale Drillers Continue Posting Losses

For the past several weeks, the drilling industry — hammered by bad financial results — has begun promoting its next big thing: the Utica shale, generating the sort of headlines you might have seen five years ago, when the shale drilling rush was gaining speed. “Utica Shale Holds 20 Times More Gas Than Previous Estimates”, read one headline. “Utica Bigger Than Marcellus”, proclaimed another.

The reason for the excitement was a study, published by West Virginia University, that concluded the Utica contains more shale gas than many estimates for the Marcellus shale, a staggering 782 trillion cubic feet.

“This is a landmark study that demonstrates the vast potential of the Utica as a resource to complement – and go beyond – what the Marcellus has already proven to be,” Brian Anderson, director of West Virginia University’s Energy Institute, told the Associated Press.

But those considering investments based on the Utica’s potential may want to pause and consider the shale industry’s long history of circulating impressive predictions, later quietly downgraded, while spending far more than they earn.

The industry has not been generating enough money to cover its capital spending and dividends,” Fidelity Investments energy fund manager John Dowd told Barrons.

Indeed, while it is clear that the shale drilling rush has produced large amounts of oil and gas, (alongside wastewater and other environmental impacts), the financial prosperity promised by its backers has not seemed to materialize.

Burning Through Cash

Companies like Chesapeake Energy, the nation’s second largest producer of natural gas and one of the most aggressive advocates of the shale rush nationwide, have been hammered hard by low oil prices and high costs in 2015.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

A Reality Check For U.S. Natural Gas Ambitions

A Reality Check For U.S. Natural Gas Ambitions

Something unusual happened while we were focused on the global oil-price collapse–the increase in U.S. shale gas production stalled (Figure 1).

Figure 1. U.S. shale gas production. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

(click image to enlarge)

Total shale gas production for June was basically flat compared with May–down 900 mcf/d or -0.1% (Table 1).

Table 1. Shale gas production change table. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

(click image to enlarge)

Marcellus and Utica production increased very slightly over May, 1.1 and 1.5 mmcf/d, respectively. The Woodford was up 400 mcf/d and “other” shale increased 300 mcf/d. Production in the few plays that increased totaled 3.3 mmcf/d or one fair gas well’s daily production.

Related: The Broken Payment Model That Costs The Oil Industry Millions

The rest of the shale gas plays declined. The earliest big shale gas plays–the Barnett, Fayetteville and Haynesville–were down 25%, 14% and 48% from their respective peak production levels for a total decline of -4.8 bcf/d since January 2012.

The fact that Eagle Ford and Bakken gas production declined suggests tight oil production may finally be declining as well.

To make matters worse, total U.S. dry natural gas production declined -144 mmcf/d in June compared to May, and -1.2 bcf/d compared to April (Figure 2). Marketed gas declined -117 mmcf/d compared to May and -1 bcf/d compared to April.

Figure 2. U.S. natural gas production. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

(click image to enlarge)

Although year-over-year gas production has increased, the rate of growth has decreased systematically from 13% in December 2014 to 5% in June 2015 (Figure 3).

Figure 3. U.S. dry gas year-over-year production change. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

(click image to enlarge)

This all comes at a time when the U.S. is using more natural gas for electric power generation. In April 2015, natural gas used to produce electricity (32% of total) exceeded coal (30% of total) for the first time (Figure 4).

 

 

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Where In The World Is The Shale Gas Revolution?

Where In The World Is The Shale Gas Revolution?

As it stands the global shale gas revolution is missing in action. To be sure, its impact in the United States – and the subsequent ripple worldwide – was nothing short of game-changing, but the wave of enthusiasm has yet to produce substantial results outside of North America.

Still, the dream is far from dead and exciting prospects abound from Argentina to China, and elsewhere in between. Both shale gas and tight oil – more than happenings in Iran, or drilling in the Arctic – look primed to be the dominant market movers in the short- to medium-term.

The U.S. experience is hard to replicate, and with the custom-tailored approach that hydraulic fracturing demands, it’s a difficult template for shale hopefuls to follow verbatim. It does however, provide a basic outline for what works and what doesn’t – an outline that explains the muted success abroad.

First, a helpful tax regime minimized the risk for early, pre-commercial, shale wildcatters. Between 1980 and 2002, tax credits via the federal governmentsubsidized shale gas producers by between 20 to 60 percent of market prices. Also of note is the U.S.’ extensive – and unbundled – pipeline network, robust service sector, and the relative widespread availability of water.

Related: China Doubles Down On Dirty Fuel

Perhaps more important though, are mineral rights. One of the key ingredients to the shale revolution in the U.S. is the ownership of mineral rights for landowners. That gives them a stake in the boom. But that is rare outside of the U.S. – in many other countries the government owns the mineral rights beneath a landowner’s land. That has slowed development in China, and contributed topreventing shale gas development across mainland Europe.

 

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Shale Gas Reality Check

Shale Gas Reality Check

shale-gas-reality-check-blog-top

In October 2014, Post Carbon Institute published the results of what likely remains the most thorough independent analysis of U.S. shale gas and tight oil production ever conducted. The process of drilling for shale gas and tight oil is known colloquially as “fracking” and has drawn a great deal of controversy—considered by some as an energy revolution and others as an environmental and human health catastrophe.

Much of the cost-benefit debate over fracking has come down to the perception of just how much domestic oil and gas it can produce and at what cost. To answer this question, policymakers, the media, and the general public have typically turned to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), which every year publishes its Annual Energy Outlook (AEO).

In Drilling Deeper, PCI Fellow David Hughes took a hard look at the EIA’s AEO2014 and found that its projections for future production and prices suffered from a worrisome level of optimism. This lead us and others to raise important questions about the wisdom of some energy policies and infrastructure projects (for example, the approval of Liquified Natural Gas export terminals and the lifting of the crude oil export ban) that have been pursued largely on the basis of the EIA’s rosy forecasts.

Recently, the EIA released its Annual Energy Outlook 2015 and so we asked David Hughes to see how the EIA’s projections and assumptions have changed over the last year, and to assess the AEO2015 against both Drilling Deeperand up-to-date production data from key shale gas and tight oil plays. What follows are Hughes’s findings regarding shale gas. The AEO2015’s tight oil projections will be reviewed in early September 2015.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

Higher-risk ‘Shallow Fracking’ More Common than Suspected: Study

Higher-risk ‘Shallow Fracking’ More Common than Suspected: Study

Lessons for BC, Alberta in new Stanford report.

The fracking of oil and gas less than a mile from aquifers or the Earth’s surface now takes place across North America with few restrictions, posing increased risk for drinking water supplies, says a new Stanford study.

The study examined the frequency of so-called shallow fracking, described by the researchers as occurring less than a mile underground. Shallow fracking poses a greater risk to drinking water than fracking that occurs much deeper under the Earth’s surface.

Out of 44,000 wells fracked between 2010 and 2013 in the United States, researchers found that 6,900 (16 per cent) were fractured less than a mile from the surface and another 2,600 wells (six per cent) were fractured above 3,000 feet, or 900 metres.

“What surprised me is how often shallow fracturing occurs with large volumes of chemicals and water,” said lead researcher and environmental scientist Robert Jackson in an interview with The Tyee.

The majority of shallow fracking now takes place in Texas, California, Arkansas and Wyoming. Although the study largely excludes Canada, shallow fracking also takes place in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia, and sometimes at depths less than 500 metres.

Due to poor data reporting by industry and its regulators, “the occurrence of shallow hydraulic fracturing across the U.S. is underestimated in our analysis,” added the study.

During shallow fractures, the industry injects fluids into vertical or horizontal wells to crack rock directly below or into groundwater. In many reported cases, the resulting fractures can travel up to 556 metres into other hydrocarbon zones, water formations or other energy well sites.

As a result, shallow fractures can connect to aquifers used for drinking water.

“Even fractures that do not extend all the way to an overlying aquifer can link formations by connecting them to natural faults, fissures or other pathways,” explained the study.

 

 

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Fracking Industry Has Changed Earthquake Patterns in Northeast BC

Fracking Industry Has Changed Earthquake Patterns in Northeast BC

Impact on groundwater and migrating gases mostly unknown, critics say. A special report.

New research and presentations by both provincial and federal scientists show that the shale gas industry, which the B.C. government hopes will eventually supply proposed liquefied natural gas terminals with fracked gas, has caused more than a thousand earthquakes in northeast B.C. since 2006 and changed the region’s seismicity.


The earthquakes, ranging in magnitude from 1.0 to 4.3, include six events higher than 4.0 and more than 20 events that shook buildings and moved furniture in places like Fort St. John. Several events caused casing damage to horizontal wells. Moreover, industry-caused tremors remain an ongoing geological revolution for the region.

Earthquakes with a magnitude of about 2.0 or less are called microquakes and can’t be felt at the surface. Events above 3.0 can be felt on the ground, and tremors just larger than 4.0 can cause minor damage. A great earthquake, capable of extensive damage, typically measures a magnitude of 8.0.

Scientists originally thought that hydraulic fracturing wouldn’t trigger anything more than microquakes. But now that the technology has set off magnitude 4.4 quakes in Alberta, scientists are grappling to determine what kind of hazard industrial tremors might pose to pipelines, dams and other infrastructure.

At Upper Halfway, a community northeast of Fort St. John, residents have described the tremors as a series of crashes and bangs comparable to someone driving “a truck into the side of the house.”

The shale gas industry involves the injection of highly pressurized fluids into wells to crack open difficult oil and gas deposits. The injections create a network of cracks that can also connect to fault zones. The reactivation of these faults can then trigger an earthquake, scientists say.

 


Due to limited monitoring, industry and government lack a full understanding of how the wave of quakes is changing the flow of groundwater in the region or the migration of gases such as methane, radon and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere throughout northeast B.C.

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Greenwash: Shell May Remove “Oil” From Name as it Moves to Tap Arctic, Gulf of Mexico

Shell Oil has announced it may take a page out of the BP “Beyond Petroleum” greenwashing book, rebranding itself as something other than an oil company for its United States-based unit.

Marvin Odum, director of Shell Oil’s upstream subsidiary companies in the Americas, told Bloomberg the name Shell Oil “is a little old-fashioned, I’d say, and at one point we’ll probably do something about that” during a luncheon interview with Bloomberg News co-founder Matt Winkler (beginning at 8:22) at the recently-completed Shell-sponsored Toronto Global Forum.

“Oil,” said Odum, could at some point in the near future be removed from the name.

Odum’s comments come as Shell has moved aggressively to drill for offshore oil in the Arctic and deep offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, while also maintaining a heavy footprint in Alberta’s tar sands oil patch.

Shell Oil Greenwashing
Image Credit: Bloomberg News Screenshot

Shell also recently acquired BG (British Gas) Group, a company that owns numerous assets in the global liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry, transforming the company into what Forbes hailed as a “world LNG giant.”

Winkler quipped in Toronto that due to this major asset purchase, it might be more accurate to call Shell Oil, “Shell Gas.”

In October 2011, BG Group signed a major contract with the U.S.-based LNG giant Cheniere to ship its gas product obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to the global market. That LNG will begin to flow by the end of the year.

Just a week before Odum told Winkler that Shell may take “oil” out its company name, he appeared on Bloomberg News on the sidelines of the Aspen Ideas Festival to boast about his company’s big plans — plans to drill for oil in the deep offshore Gulf of Mexico Appomattox field. At Aspen, Odum called Appomattox a “world class oil and gas project.”

 

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