The US oil production boom has seen a 28- year high, effected in part by shale drilling. In the first seven months this of this year, investors placed $16.3 billion into funds that focus on energy production, that is double the amount of money invested in the same period last year. Company sales pitches that highlight the prospects of shale wells encourage the glut of investor cash, but discrepancies between reports to the government and to investors could see some shale producers facing legal troubles.
They’re running a great risk of litigation when they don’t end up producing anything like that,” said John Lee, a University of Houston petroleum engineering professor who helped write the SEC rules and has taught reserves evaluation to a generation of engineers. “If I were an ambulance-chasing lawyer, I’d get into this.”
Shale drillers report prospective oil production both to the Securities and Exchange Commission and to the public, but two numbers are highly divergent when compared side by side. Government regulations constrain the numbers oil companies can provide, requiring that companies provide proved reserves that are accurate. This requirement is not extended to investors and the pubic. Industry-wide discrepancies between numbers provided to the SEC and the pubic are rampant.
Bloomberg’s analysis of 73 companies revealed that companies reported a potential of 163.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent to the public compared to the 33 billion reported to the SEC. Oil company executives, like Scott Sheffield, chairman and CEO of Pioneer, say that experienced investors know the difference between the two numbers. Others argue that numbers provided to the government are too restricted and do not convey the full potential of the investments. Either way companies are seeing numbers rising both in investments and shares.
Read More – We’re Sitting on 10 Billion Barrels of Oil! OK, 2. (Bloomberg, Asjylyn Loder and Issac Arnsdorf)