Fracking in the Permian Basin


Texas & New Mexico, USA

Project risks:

Environmental Destruction, Social Harm


  • Energy Transfer LP
  • Enterprise Products Partners LP
  • 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
  • PDC Energy Inc
  • Endeavour Energy Resources LP
  • Mewbourne Oil Company
  • SM Energy Company
  • Callon Petroleum Company
  • Laredo Petroleum Inc
  • 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
  • Legacy Reserves 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
  • PRI Operating LLC (Patriot Resources)
  • Summit Petroleum LLC
  • Earthstone Energy Inc
  • Urban Oil & Gas Group LLC
  • Lario Oil & Gas Company
  • 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
  • Hibernia Resources LLC
  • Ameredev II LLC
  • Ring Energy Inc
  • Headington Energy Partners LLC
  • UpCurve Energy LLC
  • Tall City Operations III LLC
  • Abraxas Petroleum Corporation
  • PetroLegacy Energy II LLC
  • Gordy Oil Co Inc
  • HighPeak Energy Inc
  • Crescent Energy Company
  • Murchison Oil & Gas LLC
  • FireBird Energy LLC
  • Discovery Operating Inc
  • Elevation Resources LLC
  • Riley Exploration Permian Inc
  • Caza Petroleum LLC
  • Point Energy Partners
  • CP Exploration III LLC
  • RRP Operating LLC
  • Novo Oil & Gas LLC
  • Forge Energy II LLC
  • Percussion Petroleum II LLC
  • Clear Fork Inc
  • Vitol Holding II SA
  • Ovintiv Inc
  • Sixth Street Partners LLC
  • Franklin Mountain Energy LLC
  • TRP Energy LLC
  • Piedra Resources LLC
  • Driftwood Energy Partners LLC

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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 everything bad about fracking takes on new dimensions. The landscape, the towns, the schools and the air all bear witness to the negative effects of the United States oil and gas boom. Since 2014, the United States has been the largest producer of hydrocarbons worldwide. Fracking made it possible.[1][2] In the country’s largest fracking region, the Permian Basin, the catastrophic consequences of the fracking spree for people and nature are omnipresent.

Barely an acre of land in the Permian Basin has been left untouched by oil and gas companies.[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] Today, the Permian is a desert.[10] However, traces of the coral reef remain. 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 If they continue this way, production in the Permian Basin will increase by 33% by 2030.[15] ExxonMobil alone wants to produce 25% more oil and gas in the Permian Basin in 2022 than in the year before.14667

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 Haynesville in Texas and Louisiana, 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. 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 putting on speed. On the Texas side of the Permian Basin alone, there have been approximately 1,300 earthquakes since 2017.14669 Scientists, and also the State of Texas, see a clear link to the oil and gas industry. After the number of earthquakes in Texas doubled in 2021, the regulators banned the injection of wastewater underground 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]

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) the gas that cannot be directed into pipelines without further treatment.[40] As a result, a constant flow of smoke, flames and large amounts of carbon dioxide is polluting the air.[41] Sometimes, however, the companies simply release (vent) the 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] In 2020, researchers found that the Permian Basin has 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. To the industry’s horror, the agency wants to introduce stricter rules for both methane and ozone emissions in the Permian Basin.1467514677

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 seemingly endless expanse of oil and gas infrastructure in the Permian Basin.[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] Sometimes, the smell is so bad, people can’t go outside.[51] Many wake up with headaches every day, have difficulties breathing or suffer nausea and dizziness.[52][53] Not only oil production, but also the increasing number of abandoned wells can 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] 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 not successful and the family had to kill their chickens, dog and goat.[59]

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 thinkable ways. 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] Rates of theft, drug use and sexual violence are rising.[63] Rents rose by 65% between 2010 and 2018.[64] 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. As of the academic year 2021/2022, 3,789 students attend 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.[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 Around the Permian, other groups oppose the construction of pipelines that would transport Permian oil and gas.[71]14683 Along the Gulf Coast, still other groups fight oil and gas export terminals and petrochemical facilities.[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 use of the vague term “intent” in the law means all opposition against oil and gas production has become more risky.

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 remain on expansion course in the Permian Basin. 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, September 2022. We list all companies on GOGEL involved in fracking production or expansion in the Permian Basin.…
Rystad UCube, September 2022…
Rystad UCube, September 2022
Rystad UCube, September 2022 (Resources)
Rystad UCube, September 2022 (Resources)……………