Drilling giants like Exxon and Shell are safer and more ecologically responsible than their smaller competition. In many industries, scaling up production actually leads to more mistakes and quality control issues, but oddly enough, when it comes to fracking shale in Pennsylvania, bigger companies violate regulations the least. The WSJ reports:
As big energy companies buy out smaller rivals, one side effect is an improving environmental record, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Pennsylvania records.
The state offers a glimpse of the direction the U.S. drilling boom may be headed in Texas, North Dakota and elsewhere, as Big Oil increasingly takes over from the smaller, risk-embracing but often cash-strapped companies that pioneered tapping oil and gas from shale. Regulators and some environmentalists say the multinationals bring more rigorous approaches, mindful that one big mistake can affect their ability to operate everywhere. Superior financial resources allow them to wield teams to analyze and reduce violations as they carry out the complex process needed to unlock oil and gas trapped in shale.
Smaller companies take more risks. They innovate, and it was on their backs that the shale boom was built. But now that the resource is less of an experiment and more of a sure thing, big oil and gas companies are consolidating wells and buying out the wildcatters.
Unsafe fracking costs companies like Shell, Exxon and Chevron much more than lost potential resources, clean-up bills and government fees. These big companies care deeply about their public image. They have brands to protect and the funding to protect them. For them, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Large companies also have the resources to frack safely. So far, the numbers indicate that the Pennsylvania shale culture is changing. Companies big and small over the past two years are violating regulations less than before.
Bigger, safer fracking is excellent news, because the American shale revolution is showing no signs of slowing down.