Fracking in the Permian Basin


Texas & New Mexico, USA

Project risks:

Environmental Destruction, Social Harm


  • Energy Transfer LP
  • Enterprise Products Partners LP
  • ONEOK Inc
  • Exxon Mobil Corporation
  • Chevron Corporation
  • BP plc
  • Occidental Petroleum Corporation
  • ConocoPhillips
  • EOG Resources Inc
  • Ecopetrol SA
  • APA Corporation
  • Devon Energy Corporation
  • Marathon Oil Corporation
  • Coterra Energy Inc
  • Pioneer Natural Resources Company
  • Continental Resources Inc
  • Diamondback Energy Inc
  • Mewbourne Oil Company
  • SM Energy Company
  • Callon Petroleum Company
  • Matador Resources Company
  • Blackbeard Operating LLC
  • CrownQuest Operating LLC
  • Permian Resources Corporation
  • Kinder Morgan Inc
  • Sinochem Group Co Ltd
  • BTA Oil Producers LLC
  • Petro-Hunt LLC
  • EnerVest Ltd
  • Northern Oil and Gas Inc
  • Lime Rock Resources
  • Revenir Energy Inc
  • Fasken Oil and Ranch Ltd
  • Sequitur Energy Resources LLC
  • Birch Operations Inc
  • United Production Partners Inc
  • TPG Capital LP
  • Capitan Energy Inc
  • Spur Energy Partners LLC
  • Discovery Natural Resources LLC
  • Tap Rock Resources LLC
  • Sheridan Production Company LLC
  • Summit Petroleum LLC
  • Earthstone Energy Inc
  • Urban Oil & Gas Group LLC
  • Battalion Oil Corporation
  • Steward Energy II LLC
  • Triple Crown Resources LLC
  • Kaiser-Francis Oil Company
  • Rio Oil and Gas II LLC
  • Henry Resources LLC
  • Permian Deep Rock Oil LLC
  • Zarvona Energy LLC
  • Bayswater Exploration and Production LLC
  • Ameredev II LLC
  • Ring Energy Inc
  • Jetta Operating Company Inc
  • UpCurve Energy LLC
  • Tall City Operations III LLC
  • Manti Resources Inc
  • HighPeak Energy Inc
  • Crescent Energy Company
  • Murchison Oil & Gas LLC
  • Discovery Operating Inc
  • Elevation Resources LLC
  • Riley Exploration Permian Inc
  • Caza Petroleum LLC
  • Point Energy Partners
  • CP Exploration III LLC
  • Surge Energy US Holdings Company
  • RRP Operating LLC
  • Burk Royalty Co Ltd
  • Ovintiv Inc
  • Sixth Street Partners LLC
  • Franklin Mountain Energy LLC
  • TRP Energy LLC

read less

read more

Approximate location. By zooming in, you can recognize the drill pads of the Permian Basin.

Everything is Bigger in the Permian Basin

In the Permian Basin, almost every harmful aspect of fracking takes on new dimensions. The landscape, the towns, the schools and the air all bear witness to the damages of the US' oil and gas boom. The United States has been the largest producer of hydrocarbons worldwide since 2014, mainly thanks to the utilization of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on a massive scale.[1][2] In the country’s largest fracking region, the Permian Basin, the catastrophic consequences of the fracking spree on people and nature are omnipresent.

Barely an acre of land has been left untouched by oil and gas companies in the Permian Basin [3] The Permian Basin is a region the size of Great Britain.[4] It stretches across western Texas and southeastern New Mexico.[5] Bobbing pump jacks, processing plants, oil and wastewater storage tanks, compressor stations, artificial waste pits, frack sand mines and dirt roads are everywhere.[6][7] Corridors for underground pipelines create wide strips of barren land that vanish into the horizon.[8]

The Permian Basin stretches over an area the size of Great Britain. Credit: formulanone, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

265 million years ago, the Permian Basin lay underwater. It was a flourishing coral reef.[9] Although the Permian is a desert today, traces of the coral reef remain.[10] The organisms that once lived there have transformed into enormous deposits of oil and gas.[11] Nearly 40% of all oil produced in the USA comes from the Permian Basin.14663 Currently, over 100 companies are extracting record amounts of oil and gas in the region.[14]14665

To get to the oil in the Permian Basin, companies like Pioneer Natural Resources, Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, EOG Resources, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips almost always use fracking. Fracking is an extremely destructive, unconventional way of extracting oil and gas which is otherwise not extractable. 81% of all fracking worldwide takes place in the US.[16] The largest US fracking regions are Eagle Ford in Texas, the Appalachian Basin in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio and the Permian Basin in New Mexico and Texas.[17] The Permian Basin is the largest of them all.[18]

The companies in the Permian Basin use fracking because the oil and gas is trapped underground in compressed layers of shale.[19] To crack open the shale, the companies have drilled tens of thousands of fracking wells.[20] They pump truckloads of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to release the oil and gas.[21] One single fracking well can use up to 42,500,000 liters (11,227,312 gallons) of water and up to 14,514,955 kg (32,000,000 lbs) of sand.[22][23] For a single barrel of fracked oil, the companies produce about 4 to 7 barrels of toxic wastewater.[24] The companies dispose of the wastewater in different ways. In some cases, they store it in open pits. These pits frequently leak and contaminate groundwater.15549 Often, the companies inject the wastewater back into the ground.[25][26] The pressure from the injected wastewater can cause earthquakes.[27][28][29] The number of earthquakes in the Permian Basin has been increasing since the fracking boom began gathering pace. On the Texas side of the Permian Basin alone, there have been approximately 2,700 earthquakes since 2017.14669 Scientists see a clear link to the oil and gas industry - as does the State of Texas. After the number of earthquakes in Texas doubled in 2021, the regulators banned the underground injection of wastewater in a large part of the Permian Basin.14671

A Network of Pollution

The companies transport a lot of the oil and gas from the Permian Basin to the Texas Gulf Coast.[31] From there, a never-ending stream of cargo ships transports it out into the world.[32] However, the companies are producing so much oil and gas that they are running out of pipelines to carry it all to the Gulf Coast.[33] So, the companies are building more pipelines, oil export terminals, liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, gas processing plants and petrochemical complexes as fast as they can.[35][36][37]15551

The companies are racing to build more oil and gas infrastructure. Credit: Julie Dermansky

The climate impact of Permian oil and gas is even greater than that of coal.[38] Pioneer Natural Resources, Chevron and the other Permian producers simply burn off (flare) excess gas that cannot be directed into pipelines without further treatment.[40]15553 As a result, a constant flow of smoke and flames pollute the air. Large amounts of carbon dioxide are released every day.[41] Sometimes, however, the companies simply release (vent) excess gas into the atmosphere without burning it off.[42] Fossil gas consists mostly of methane, so the companies are actually emitting almost pure methane into the air.[43] Over a period of 20 years, methane is 86 times worse for global warming than carbon dioxide.[44] Even though New Mexico has introduced stricter rules for flaring and venting, many companies are continuing as if nothing changed. Ultimately, there aren’t enough inspectors to enforce the restrictions.15555 In 2020, researchers found that the Permian Basin had a 60% higher methane leakage rate than other US oil and gas regions.[45]14673 Finally, the US Environmental Protection Agency has decided to act on the situation. The industry is doing all it can to prevent stricter federal rules for ozone and methane emissions.15557

Constant flaring of gas causes massive CO2 emissions and lights up the sky day and night. Credit: acritely_photo / Alamy Stock Photo

Taking its Toll on the People

Over 2 million people live in the middle of the Permian Basin's seemingly endless expanse of oil and gas infrastructure.[46] Many can see the wells from their kitchen window.[47] Flaring stacks are everywhere. They shoot flames into the air day and night, so it never really gets dark.[48] Sulfurous gas from the extraction sites leaves a heavy stench in the air.[49] It smells like rotten eggs.[50] The smell is sometimes so bad that people cannot go outside.[51] Many wake up with headaches every day, have difficulties breathing, or suffer nausea and dizziness.[52][53] The increasing number of abandoned wells can also poison the surrounding ground and pollute the air.14679

When there is an accident, the local people pay the price. In January 2020, a wastewater pipeline in Carlsbad, New Mexico burst in the middle of the night across the street from a family’s home.[54] Fracking wastewater is full of salt, toxic chemicals, oil, grease and radioactive minerals.[55] When the pipeline in Carlsbad exploded, this poisonous brew rained down on the family’s home.[56] As they tried to rescue their animals, they were drenched in wastewater.[57] Both grownups and children developed rashes and pustules on their skin.[58] Their efforts to save their animals were unsuccessful and the family had to kill off their chickens, dog and goat.[59] Many fear that wastewater will eventually pollute the groundwater and make it impossible to live in the region.15559

Over 2 million people live in the middle of the oil and gas spree. Credit: Julie Dermansky

The oil boom is transforming the Permian’s towns and cities in almost all ways imaginable. Thousands of workers are moving into the region to work the drilling rigs and build pipelines to transport the oil out of the Permian.[61] The influx of temporary workers is a challenge for the small towns.[62] Rents rose by 65% between 2010 and 2018.[64] Rates of theft, drug use and sexual violence are rising.[63] Hospitals don’t have enough doctors.[65] Schools are too small to accommodate the many children that are moving into the oil region with their parents.[66] The Permian High School in Odessa, for example, has space for 2,500 children. In the 2021/2022 academic year, 3,789 students attended the school.[67] Many children don’t even have a chair or desk.[68] In addition, schools are struggling to find new staff as teachers leave for higher-paying jobs in the oil industry or move to more affordable regions.[69]

Many people in the Permian Basin are sick and tired of the oil and gas companies. Countless groups and NGOs are protesting against the different aspects of the Permian’s fracking spree. In the Permian Basin itself, civil society groups rally against the companies’ expansion plans and pollution.1556115563[70] A New Mexico group intends to take Occidental Petroleum, one of the largest oil producers in the Permian basin, to court over illegally polluting the air.14681 Wild Earth Guardians and many other groups have filed lawsuits against leases and companies operating in the basin, to protect the little liveable environment that’s left.1556515567 Around the Permian, groups are opposing the construction of pipelines that would transport Permian oil and gas.[71] Along the Gulf Coast, other groups fight oil and gas export terminals and petrochemical facilities.14683[73] In reaction to the protests, the state of Texas passed a new law in 2019.[74] Since then, protesters can get 2 years in prison simply for the intent of blocking a pipeline.[75] The vague use of the term “intent” in the law makes any kind of opposition against oil and gas production in the state even riskier.

Since the companies and regional governments do not listen to them, local communities, indigenous groups, activists and NGOs have also taken their fight abroad.[76] Together with Swedish activists, they pressured the Swedish government into cancelling a proposed LNG import terminal.[77][78] This terminal was supposed to import fracked gas from the US.[79] Their plan: If nobody buys the Permian’s dirty fossil fuels, the companies will stop producing them.[80] Increasingly, the activists are targeting the financiers of the companies that destroy their health and livelihoods.[81]

In Sweden, activists successfully protested against Gothenburg LNG, a fossil gas terminal that would have imported fracked gas from the US. Credit: Jana Eriksson

Yet, oil and gas companies in the Permian Basin remain firmly on the course of expansion. They continue to plaster New Mexico and Texas with more and more oil and gas drilling rigs, waste pools, flaring stacks and pipelines. They will continue to pollute the environment, cause earthquakes, accidents and health problems. The companies do not care if hospitals and schools are too small or housing prices too high. The only way to avoid the negative effects of Permian Basin fracking is to leave the oil and gas in the ground.

Check out the video: Permian Climate Bomb

Groups like Oil Change International are spreading the word on the disastrous effects of oil & gas extraction in the Permian Basin.

Groups working on the Permian Basin: Earthworks, Oil Change International, Society of Native Nations, WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Western Environmental Law Center, Waterkeeper Alliance, Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA), New Energy Economy, Wilderness Society, Environmental Defense Fund, IEEFA, Gardendale Accountability Project, Environment Texas, Society of Native Nations, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Fractracker Alliance, Conservation Voters of New Mexico, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, Carlsbad-based Citizens Caring for the Future, Health Action New Mexico, New Mexico Environmental Law Center, New Mexico Voice for the Children, Progress Now New Mexico, 350 New Mexico, 350 Santa Fe, Climate Advocates Voces Unidas (CAVU), Big Bend Defense Coalition, Citizens for Clean Air and Clean Water in Freeport, Texas, Port Arthur Community Action Network (PACAN), San Juan Citizens Alliance, Greenpeace USA

Further Resources:

Rystad UCube, September 2021…
Rystad UCube, October 2023. We list all companies on GOGEL involved in fracking production or expansion in the Permian Basin.
By production volume; Rystad UCube, October 2023
Rystad UCube, October 2023 (Resources)
Rystad UCube, October 2023 (Resources)…
2,720 earthquakes with a magnitude of 2,5 or higher according to the Texas Seismological Network and Seismology Research:……………………