Elizabeth Pines: Highlights of Major Gas Drillers: ExxonMobil, Chesapeake Energy, & Range Resources

With roots in John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, ExxonMobil was formed in 1999 by a merger of Exxon and Mobil, and is the world’s largest oil and gas producer today. Exxon’s history has been filled with political contention and widespread debate. In 1911, the U.S. Supreme Court mandated that Standard Oil split into 34 unrelated companies, including Vacuum Oil, which would become Mobil Oil Corporation in 1966, and Jersey Standard, which would become Exxon in 1972 (ExxonMobil, Our History).

Headquartered in Irving, Texas, Exxon currently operates on every continent except Antarctica, and in over 45 countries (Progressive Digital Media, 2013). Exxon’s financial results have given the company the title of the largest publicly traded oil and gas company. Its 2013 revenue was reported at $430 billion and profits reported at $32.6 billion. In 2011, Exxon’s average daily natural gas production was 3.9 billion cubic feet, or 29 billion gallons (Kusnetz, 2011). By 2012, that number rose to 12.322 billion cubic feet, or 92 billion gallons, which is enough to fill over five billion 16’x32’ in-ground swimming pools (Progressive Digital Media, 2013).

Exxon boasts over 60 years in safe hydraulic fracturing. However, after public skepticism about the processes companies use to extract natural gas and shareholder questions regarding the undisclosed risks associated with fracking, Exxon released a report in 2014 titled “Unconventional Resources Development – Managing the Risks.” This report detailed to shareholders how Exxon will utilize risk management practices associated with the development of unconventional resources, which the company defines as “natural gas and oil found in shale and tight sand formations,” to ensure safety in the process of hydraulic fracturing. The report discussed the economic and environmental benefits of unconventional resources development, the steps Exxon has been taking to be accountable to regulators and stakeholders, the impact fracking has on drinking water and water use, transparency of chemicals used in fracking, and air emissions related to fracking (Unconventional Resources Development Risk Management, 2014).

While Exxon is the largest producer of oil and gas, smaller companies have taken the lead in the hydraulic fracturing industry. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, OK, Chesapeake Energy is the second largest producer of natural gas in the United States and focuses on exploring and drilling onshore in major natural gas and liquids plays, areas that have been selected for exploration of oil and gas, across the United States (Chesapeake Energy, Operations). Chesapeake owns approximately 46,800 natural gas and oil wells at the end of 2013 that produce roughly 4.1 billion cubic feet, which is enough natural gas to meet the needs of approximately 20,000 homes in the United States for an entire year (How To Measure Natural Gas, 2014).

Chesapeake separates its divisions for reporting purposes into southern and northern components. The Southern Division includes the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas, the Barnett Shale in North-Central Texas, and the Haynesville/Bossier Shale in northwestern Louisiana and East Texas. Its Northern Division includes the Utica Shale in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Chesapeake’s 2013 revenues totaled $17.5 billion and net profit was reported at $894 million (SEC, Chesapeake Oilfield Operating, L.L.C., Form 10-K, 2014). Chesapeake is heavily involved in political participation and in an effort to be transparent, lists its Political Action Committee and trade association contributions in 2012 directly on its website (http://www.chk.com/about/corporate- governance/political-participation).

Range Resources in another major natural gas driller that primarily focuses on the Appalachian and Southwestern regions. Its areas of operation include Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, the Texas Panhandle, northern Oklahoma, and Kansas (Range Resources, Strategy, 2014). Based in Fort Worth, Texas, Range Resources was founded in 1976 and participated in a series of mergers and acquisitions between 1988 and 2000 that allowed it to grow and expand. The company is best known for its activity in the Marcellus Shale, where it has increased its activity since 2004, when it drilled the first successful vertical well in Washington County, PA. Financial data show 2013 revenues of $1.8 billion and net profit of $115 million, both of which have been on an upward trend, increasing 55% and 147% since 2009, respectively (SEC, Range Resources Corporation, Form 10-K, 2014).