By some measures, America’s fracking industry had a banner year in 2018. Shale companies produced more oil and gas than ever, lifting total US output to all-time highs while squeezing the nation’s net energy imports to their lowest point since 1970.
A cross section of 29 publicly traded, fracking-focused oil and gas companies spent $6.7 billion more on drilling than they realized from selling oil and gas.
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These disappointing results come on the heels of a decade of bleak financial performance. Since its inception, the fracking sector has consistently failed to produce enough cash to satisfy its voracious appetite for capital. From 2010 through 2018, the companies in our sample had an aggregate negative cash flow of $181 billion.
- Even after three years of oil price increases, US fracking-focused oil and gas companies continued their 9-year losing streak through 2018.
- These small and mid-sized US E&Ps reported $6.7 billion in negative cash flows through December.
- E&Ps dipped into cash reserves by $8.4 billion in 2018 to fund capital expenditures and shareholder payouts.
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