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Chesapeake Energy Corporation (CHK), Devon Energy Corp (DVN), Southwestern Energy Company (SWN): Fracking in America

The boom in U.S. oil and gas production is unprecedented in modern America. As recently as October 2005, we were importing 4,560 barrels of petroleum-based products
per day, while exporting just 871.

Miraculously, just six years later, we pulled even. As of last month, we export 1,100 more barrels of petroleum-based products per day than we import.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration; idea originally appeared in article by the Fool’s Morgan Housel in January 2012. Does not include crude oil imports or exports.

As the graph shows, things started to change dramatically around 2006. That coincides with the onset of new, more effective fracking techniques that helped to unlock previously inextractable deposits of both oil and natural gas.

Environmental concerns
This energy boom has been a major economic force for the country, but not everyone is so sure that lower unemployment is a fair long-term price to pay for possible environmental degradation.

Several groups have raised concerns. First, there is the possibility that carcinogenic chemicals are leaking into the water supply. Along the same lines, others are concerned about the total volume of water needed to frack. And residents in Ohio even think that the disposal of fracked water could be leading to an increase in earthquakes in the region.

Legal requirements for fracking
With so many worried about the potential for harmful side effects, the federal government looks poised to enact standards early next year. The standards will probably cover the disclosure of chemicals used in fracking, the safe construction of wells, and the specifics of wastewater management.

Depending on where they operate, these regulations could have noticeable consequences for the nation’s top energy companies:

Top natural gas producers

Company Million Cubic Feet/Day
ExxonMobil 40.0
Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) 33.7
Anadarko 29.9
Devon Energy Corp (NYSE:DVN) 22.5
Southwestern Energy Company (NYSE:SWN) 18.2

Source: Natural Gas Supply Association; numbers for first quarter of 2013.

Finding statistics for oil output in the United States by company is a little more difficult, but in Texas, which produces twice as much oil as the next closest state, the top producers are easy to find: Occidental Petroleum Corporation (NYSE:OXY) and EOG Resources Inc (NYSE:EOG), which offered up 117,000 and 110,000 barrels of oil per day in 2012, respectively.

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