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Old 11-10-2019, 04:05 PM
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US shale oil industry is collapsing


Some recent news stories I found:

https://gulfnews.com/business/energy...ert-1.67713607

https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-G...-US-Shale.html

https://www.latimes.com/business/sto...ve-to-sluggish

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/ar...is-nearly-over

These developments are right in line with what many of the shale oil 'skeptics' have been predicting for years. The shale oil industry is collapsing due to the sheer unprofitability and massive debt levels. The US for over a decade has been able to reverse decades of declining domestic oil production with fracking, and now we produce more oil than ever before (we are certainly still not "energy independent," however).

The shale oil industry is wobbling under the oppressive debt load that it has racked up since 2005. Most shale oil companies can't even cover their cost of operations, let alone make a profit. That's the "price" we pay for cheap oil at the gas pump. The operational and capital costs for drilling, hauling countless truckloads of water and fracking sand to the rig pads, and sucking the oil out, exceed the profits from selling that oil.

Really, the shale oil industry is a product of our desperation for cheap and abundant oil. The coming collapse of shale oil and declining conventional US oil production is troubling: those in power will do- I hate using this word, but it fits here- literally anything to maintain the status quo. They will do whatever it takes so that Americans can keep driving to Walmart and buying cheap Chinese garbage forever.
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Old 11-10-2019, 04:10 PM
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US shale oil industry is collapsing


Well, that'd explain all the earthquakes in Oklahoma...
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Old 11-10-2019, 05:07 PM
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It may be a bit premature to herald the "collapse" of the shale oil industry/fracking:

"In the United States, oil production last year reached its highest level in 14 years, thanks in part to output from North Dakota's Bakken Shale, and is expected to keep rising. Natural gas production, already at new highs thanks to shale gas, is expected to grow 44 percent in the U.S. between 2011 and 2040."

http://nationalgeographic.com/enviro...ed-our-future/

Those who are gloating over potential fracking bans might want to consider the downside of such policies.
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Old 11-11-2019, 11:09 AM
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This type of thread is true to form for the OP. At least he doesn't disappoint.

The profitability of domestic oil production, just like everywhere else, is dependent upon the price of oil, which is driven by supply and demand.
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Old 11-11-2019, 11:54 AM
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This type of thread is true to form for the OP. At least he doesn't disappoint.

The profitability of domestic oil production, just like everywhere else, is dependent upon the price of oil, which is driven by supply and demand.
And by politics.
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Old 11-11-2019, 01:04 PM
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I guess the OP considers shale oil to be better than fracked oil. I personally find that strange because shale oil production is essentially strip mining, followed by baking the shale.

This month, shale isn't economically viable. Next month, maybe fracking won't be. As a matter of fact, Iran just identified a new field with an estimated 53 billion barrel reserve. Maybe the Iranians will go for maximum exploitation and the ensuing price war will drop the price of crude so low that no U.S. oil production will be economically viable.
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Old 11-11-2019, 01:19 PM
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I guess the OP considers shale oil to be better than fracked oil. I personally find that strange because shale oil production is essentially strip mining, followed by baking the shale.

This month, shale isn't economically viable. Next month, maybe fracking won't be. As a matter of fact, Iran just identified a new field with an estimated 53 billion barrel reserve. Maybe the Iranians will go for maximum exploitation and the ensuing price war will drop the price of crude so low that no U.S. oil production will be economically viable.
Fracking is the process by which oil is extracted from the shale rock.
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Old 11-11-2019, 02:04 PM
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Fracking is the process by which oil is extracted from the shale rock.
No it isn't. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is mainly used to free natural gas, especially from sandstone, but also from shale. It can also be used to produce oil.

Shale oil is normally produced by chemical treatment of oil shales. Oil shale is usually mined in open pit mines or strip mines.

Last edited by Colibri; 11-11-2019 at 02:06 PM.
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Old 11-11-2019, 02:25 PM
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Fracking is the process by which oil is extracted from the shale rock.
Right. They're two different things. What they're doing nowadays is extracting oil from "tight" formations via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in pretty much the same way they extract natural gas from the same sorts of formations. This is what the Eagle Ford, Bakken and Barnett Shale all have.

There's also oil derived from oil shale, which is something different- in that case, something called kerogen is bound up within the shale itself, and has to be liberated via heating or solvents or something. Not a lot of that sort of oil is being produced currently, but there are HUGE reserves(~3 trillion barrels, half of which is estimated to be recoverable) in the Green River Formation that covers parts of Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.
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Old 11-11-2019, 04:49 PM
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there are HUGE reserves(~3 trillion barrels, half of which is estimated to be recoverable) in the Green River Formation that covers parts of Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.
Nitpick: those are resources, not reserves. The latter has a technical definition meaning that they are recoverable with existing technology and the current price of oil.
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Old 11-11-2019, 06:35 PM
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The "shale oil" in the OP and the linked articles is tight oil from shale formations, the extraction of which is facilitated by hydrologic fracturing. The pedantic will insist that this is not properly "shale oil" and the deliberately obtuse will feign confusion, but that's how the term gets used these days. The rest of us have gotten over it.
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Old 11-11-2019, 06:42 PM
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I'm having a hard time following the OP: The price we pay for having cheap oil is that we have expensive oil?
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Old 11-11-2019, 07:10 PM
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The "shale oil" in the OP and the linked articles is tight oil from shale formations, the extraction of which is facilitated by hydrologic fracturing. The pedantic will insist that this is not properly "shale oil" and the deliberately obtuse will feign confusion, but that's how the term gets used these days. The rest of us have gotten over it.
No, it's not simply pedantry, because when one looks up something like "shale oil environmental damage," one sees cites like this.

Quote:
In huge open-pit or underground operations, large amounts of rock material have to be moved in order to provide shale for surface retorting. Such operations can adversely affect the integrity of the land, grazing and agricultural activities, and local fauna and flora. Even in situ production using boreholes may have a significant surface impact, though the concentration of some resources in relatively small areas may help to keep the overall footprint relatively modest. Mine reclamation and restoration is feasible and has been demonstrated in past efforts at oil shale exploitation.
AIUI "fracking" is the term for injecting hot water or whatever down a borehole to get natural gas or oil. The other kind of extraction is "mining" which has a different set of environmental challenges.
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Old 11-11-2019, 07:18 PM
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I'm having a hard time following the OP: The price we pay for having cheap oil is that we have expensive oil?
The price we pay for cheap oil is that the oil companies get crushed, since the stuff is more difficult and more expensive to extract than ever. The shale oil companies are up to their eyeballs in debt, and accumulating onerous debt loads is the only way they can continue operations, because most of them aren't making a single red cent in profit. They are nearing collapse and they will have to either be bailed out or taken over by the government.
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Old 11-11-2019, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus Flavius View Post
The price we pay for cheap oil is that the oil companies get crushed, since the stuff is more difficult and more expensive to extract than ever. The shale oil companies are up to their eyeballs in debt, and accumulating onerous debt loads is the only way they can continue operations, because most of them aren't making a single red cent in profit. They are nearing collapse and they will have to either be bailed out or taken over by the government.
Perhaps you're referring to stories put out by the industry like this.


Quote:
Originally Posted by The Denver Post
Once upon a time, investors used to view shale drillers, like the ones operating in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, as exciting growth stories, in the genre of Uber and WeWork, which have also fallen out of favor.

Combining horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing represented a technological breakthrough that freed up massive reserves in shale formations that were once considered uneconomical to tap.

Whether or not the companies made money didn’t matter as long as they were growing, and that they did, converting the U.S. from a major importer of oil to a net exporter.
So an industry that has traditionally been boom-and-bust is now going through a bust. Well, that's how it goes with commodities. Not just oil, but crops, metals, and every type of raw material there is.

Quote:
And new oil keeps popping up from unexpected sources. Norway, Brazil, Canada and even Guyana, either nonplayers or past-their-prime players in oil production, are expected to put 1 million additional barrels onto the market this year and another million next year, The New York Times recently reported.

Even if oil prices somehow found a way to rise to $100 a barrel again, that would actually prove a curse, Johnson said, setting off a frenzy among shale producers that would lead to another collapse.

“$100 oil will lead to $20 oil,” she said.
This isn't about Americans desire for cheap energy. It's about commodity producers trying to get in while the market is hot, then getting caught short when the market cools down.

Last edited by Kent Clark; 11-11-2019 at 08:54 PM.
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Old 11-11-2019, 10:13 PM
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and i bet there's some fiance geek at a pc somewhere trying to figure out how to short it all to hell and back and rake in a quick pile or two ......
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Old 11-12-2019, 12:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus Flavius View Post
The price we pay for cheap oil is that the oil companies get crushed, since the stuff is more difficult and more expensive to extract than ever. The shale oil companies are up to their eyeballs in debt, and accumulating onerous debt loads is the only way they can continue operations, because most of them aren't making a single red cent in profit. They are nearing collapse and they will have to either be bailed out or taken over by the government.
Unless they're going to cause a severe recession by going bankrupt, the last point does not necessarily follow from the preceding. Are lots of banks going to fail if these companies go bankrupt? Are millions of people going to be put out of work? If no to both, I don't see a need for a government bailout.

If the companies fail, they fail. Their investors lose money, some people lose their jobs (and I'm fairly sure the total employment at these companies is fairly low right now), the creditors squabble over their remains. It happens all the time in other industries, such as high tech. You don't see the government bailing those companies out, do you?
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Old 11-12-2019, 09:25 AM
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No, it's not simply pedantry, because when one looks up something like "shale oil environmental damage," one sees cites like this.

AIUI "fracking" is the term for injecting hot water or whatever down a borehole to get natural gas or oil. The other kind of extraction is "mining" which has a different set of environmental challenges.
Not pendantic perhaps but confused. Two different things might be referred to combining the terms 'shale' and 'oil'. One is shale formations that contain the compound kerogen, which has to be heated to flow from the rock. At one time (ca 1970's-80's oil price increase) it was envisaged to do this with surface mining and 'cooking' of the rock. But in practical cases now it's generally done by injecting steam/high temperature water. Then the liquified kerogen has to be further processed to synthetic crude. This is a very small factor in US oil production.

The other thing which combines those two terms is the hydraulic fracturing of tight rock, in the general category 'shale', to release generally light crude oil (some fracked crude oil in the US isn't even black but clear, the predominantly light fractions can even cause safety issues in transport, whole different thing than than kerogen). That's done with high pressure water (not heated particularly), sand and chemicals. This is a huge scale thing now, mainly accounting for the several million bpd increase in US oil production rate in recent years. Many fracked wells in the US produce natural gas, either primarily (Pennsylvania has become No. 2 gas producing state based on fracking in the Marcellus Shale formation, very little oil there) or as a byproduct of oil production (gas flared in Bakken ND and or Perminan Basin TX/NM formations from wells drilled mainly seeking oil, but which also generate some gas and no pipelines yet to transport it), but that depends on the formation. There's no basically separate idea of fracking for gas v. fracking for oil.

This link classifies the difference as 'shale oil' referring to oil extracted from tight formations by fracking (the great big thing in US hydrocarbon production) while 'oil shale' refers to the extraction of kerogen (the minor to negligible thing in US hydrocarbon production). But basically as Ruken said the combination of words 'shale' and 'oil' in either order is now taken to refer to extraction of light crude from tight formations using hydraulic fracturing unless otherwise specified. And the thread's dubious (IMO) premise can be taken to apply to that huge source of oil.
https://www.investopedia.com/article...-oil-shale.asp
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Old 11-12-2019, 09:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus Flavius View Post
The price we pay for cheap oil is that the oil companies get crushed, since the stuff is more difficult and more expensive to extract than ever. The shale oil companies are up to their eyeballs in debt, and accumulating onerous debt loads is the only way they can continue operations, because most of them aren't making a single red cent in profit. They are nearing collapse and they will have to either be bailed out or taken over by the government.
That's the free market for ya. You know, the ol' supply and demand thing? Price is low, supply shrinks.

It turns out you can also spell "supply shrinks" as "crushed" "onerous debt load" and "nearing collapse". Nobody has to bail our or take over these companies that are trying to sell a product that isn't profitable anymore. Amazingly, the answer might just be "stop selling unprofitable stuff".
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Old 11-12-2019, 11:04 AM
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Perhaps you're referring to stories put out by the industry like this.




So an industry that has traditionally been boom-and-bust is now going through a bust. Well, that's how it goes with commodities. Not just oil, but crops, metals, and every type of raw material there is.



This isn't about Americans desire for cheap energy. It's about commodity producers trying to get in while the market is hot, then getting caught short when the market cools down.
This. I'm not too sure what's so different about this story that we haven't seen 100 kajillion times since the very first oil boom and bust town of Pithole, Pennsylvania back in 1865.

Last edited by JohnT; 11-12-2019 at 11:04 AM.
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Old 11-12-2019, 12:04 PM
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That's the free market for ya. You know, the ol' supply and demand thing? Price is low, supply shrinks.

It turns out you can also spell "supply shrinks" as "crushed" "onerous debt load" and "nearing collapse". Nobody has to bail our or take over these companies that are trying to sell a product that isn't profitable anymore. Amazingly, the answer might just be "stop selling unprofitable stuff".
The shale oil industry isn't producing consumer trinkets, they're producing a product which is ABSOLUTELY VITAL to the modern way of life. They will not be allowed to just fail, I can just about guarantee you that.
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Old 11-12-2019, 12:40 PM
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The shale oil industry isn't producing consumer trinkets, they're producing a product which is ABSOLUTELY VITAL to the modern way of life. They will not be allowed to just fail, I can just about guarantee you that.
You keep saying things this and no one is interested because it's obviously BS. There's plenty of oil and gas on the market right now, and for the most part energy is fungible. If these producers go bankrupt because commodity prices are too low, then we don't need them right now. If commodity prices rise because of increased demand then someone else will buy the assets and start producing the oil and gas again.

You have an outdated vision of the energy market and refuse to be educated as to why you're wrong. We can point out the flaws in your argument, but we can't comprehend them for you.
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Old 11-12-2019, 12:40 PM
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The shale oil industry isn't producing consumer trinkets, they're producing a product which is ABSOLUTELY VITAL to the modern way of life. They will not be allowed to just fail, I can just about guarantee you that.
But the reason why they are failing is because they can't currently compete with the glut of cheap oil from elsewhere. As they fail, supply goes down, and price goes back up, allowing other (more efficient) shale oil producers to remain in the market. If supply dropped low enough, prices would spike, and they would all get back in.

You can make an argument that it is good for the US from a strategic/defense standpoint to prop up the domestic oil industry, or maybe to insulate it from price manipulation by coordinated activities from oil cartels, but the ABSOLUTELY VITAL oil you're describing isn't going to disappear unless the demand for it drops. This is basic economics.
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Old 11-12-2019, 12:50 PM
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Not pendantic perhaps but confused. Two different things might be referred to combining the terms 'shale' and 'oil'.
If the OP was calling shale oil production what I understand to be "fracking," then I'll gladly stipulate to it, just to make sure we're all on the same page.

Because it doesn't change my point of view in the least.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus Flavius
The shale oil industry isn't producing consumer trinkets, they're producing a product which is ABSOLUTELY VITAL to the modern way of life. They will not be allowed to just fail, I can just about guarantee you that.
The industry won't fail. Individual companies will fail. Then oil prices will rise. Other companies with other backers will come along, and there will be a boom again. Then prices will fall, and there will be a bust.

Then, maybe 50 years or so down the road, someone will discover how to collect all the plastic in the ocean, convert it back into petroleum, and shale oil production will be tossed into the technological landfill along with vacuum tubes, steam engine locomotives, and hand-cranked phonographs.
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Old 11-12-2019, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus Flavius View Post
The shale oil industry isn't producing consumer trinkets, they're producing a product which is ABSOLUTELY VITAL to the modern way of life. They will not be allowed to just fail, I can just about guarantee you that.
They're digging stuff out of the ground. If that particular stuff ever becomes ABSOLUTELY VITAL it will still be there for some other company to dig it out for us. Right now, despite the fact that we need oil, we don't need THAT oil because it's more expensive to tap.
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Old 11-12-2019, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus Flavius View Post
The shale oil industry isn't producing consumer trinkets, they're producing a product which is ABSOLUTELY VITAL to the modern way of life. They will not be allowed to just fail, I can just about guarantee you that.
Other companies will buy them then, Or the fields will sit unproductive until they are profitable again. Investors who jumped on the bandwagon too late and lose their shirts are not a critical problem.
The same thng happened with minicomputers in the '70s and PCs in the '80s. And a million other examples I won't bore you with.
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Old 11-12-2019, 06:02 PM
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The industry won't fail. Individual companies will fail.
It's remarkable how people don't understand this. Esp. in an industry with so many tangible assets: leases, wells, equipment, transport facilities, etc.

Yeah. Cycles happen. A lot of businesses don't do cycles well. They ride the ups and go belly up on the downs. Someone else ends up with the assets.

Look at the airlines and their cycles. Some like PanAm and TWA "went away" but their planes and stuff just ended up in other people's hands. Others like Delta more or less survived bankruptcy (but the stockholders got a raw deal).

Right now, the "boom" period of drilling all over the upper Great Plains has died down. That's bad news for some companies. But the oil wells are still there. They are still pumping. And so it goes.
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Old 11-12-2019, 06:33 PM
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I have to say, Marcus Flavius has provided the most spirited defense of any part of the petroleum industry that I have ever seen on the SDMB.
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Old 11-12-2019, 06:36 PM
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If the OP was calling shale oil production what I understand to be "fracking," then I'll gladly stipulate to it, just to make sure we're all on the same page.

Because it doesn't change my point of view in the least.
OP has a wacky take on energy topics IMO, but in this case his/her usage is the standard one. 'Shale' now basically means fracked oil, light crude released from tight formations which are geologically speaking shale. Recovery of kerogen from shale is a footnote at this point. If not specified otherwise, 'shale' now means fracking.

Anyway besides semantics seems nearly everyone but OP is on similar page. It's worth noting that 'American shale producers' have tended to disappoint their investors in recent years, not generally fulfilled projections of improving output per well or $ spent. WSJ has had a series of good articles about that last year or two. And now are cutting back investment (a WSJ article just today), which should see US oil production flattening to perhaps no growth in 2020...but not collapsing.

However if, hypothetically, we *were* talking about kerogen recovery projects, a tiny fraction of oil production, we could say project X works at oil price Y and not below, so if prices are generally holding below Y, there'd be no such projects and that's that, because the few possible projects would have next to no feedback effect on the price. However talking about 'shale' in the common current usage of the term (ie fracked oil), there's a huge feedback effect. If US 'shale' production dropped by a large %, world oil prices would now go up by a potentially large %, ceteris paribus, short term, and make the remaining 'shale' operations greatly more profitable. Which 'shale producers' are in the business of knowing, so they aren't all going to decide to cut back massively at once.

Also others noted correctly that individual companies going bankrupt has a minor effect on production. Usually they just restructure, wiping out the equity holders and making the former bond holders the new equity holders, and carry on. Even when they liquidate, somebody else will buy the producing assets, properties, drilling rights etc at a new lower price that makes sense. Also, not mentioned that I saw, the oil majors are a bigger factor now in 'US shale' than they used to be, and they aren't going anywhere short term.
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Old 11-13-2019, 03:25 PM
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No it isn't. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is mainly used to free natural gas, especially from sandstone, but also from shale. It can also be used to produce oil.

Shale oil is normally produced by chemical treatment of oil shales. Oil shale is usually mined in open pit mines or strip mines.
I just want to really underline what others have already said. While you may be technically correct, when anyone who isn't a dedicated academic says 'shale oil', they are referring to oil extracted from shale via hydraulic fracturing. A lot of natural gas is typically unlocked at the same time, but oil is the target commodity.

If you think that the massive boom in shale oil extraction is due to a massive increase in open pit or strip mines, you couldn't be more wrong. Maybe you oppose shale oil extraction for good reasons, but those good reasons can't accurately complain about an explosive growth of open pit or strip mines because that isn't happening at all.
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