The Wall Street Journal crunched the numbers for safety and environmental violations in Pennsylvania portions of the Marcellus Shale and concluded that larger producers generally have better records than smaller producers. It leads its report with the example of Royal Dutch Shell's violation rate of 13 percent per inspection in 2010, compared to a 63 percent rate at East Resources right before the independent sold its Marcellus assets to Shell in 2010. In another example, the newspaper said that following its acquisition by Exxon Mobil, XTO Energy's rate of safety violations "has fallen by half, even though drilling takes place in the same counties, often with the same personnel." (Anyone who has read Steve Coll's recent history of Exxon, Private Empire, will not be surprised, considering Coll's account of the zero-accidents mentality Exxon developed after the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.)
Bigger isn't always better. Fort Worth-based Range Resources, an early developer of the field, had a better-than-average record among mid-sized producers, the Journal reported. All operators improved their records in the past two years, according to the newspaper's analysis of state records. For example, Shell has since lowered its violation rate to 5 percent in 2012.
You'll probably run into the Journal's pay wall, but a link to the story is here.
-- Jim Fuquay