The Ruin Of Continental Resources

Continental Resources is an oil company based in Oklahoma City.  The company was founded in 1967 by Harold Hamm, when he was 21 years of age.  The story of Harold Hamm does not make sense to me, though I have read it several times.

Harold Hamm was the youngest of 13 children, whose parents were poor cotton sharecroppers.  He went to work in the oil field when he was in his teens.  I have read that he later went to work at an automobile service station & garage, or that he owned it.  He operated a water truck that delivered water to the oil field, and then he started an oil field water truck service.

The only thing that did seem to make sense about how Harold Hamm began to get ahead, was that there was an oil bust, and oil drill rigs began to be sold for scrap metal.  With all the money that he had or could get a hold of, he began buying as many oil drill rigs as he could, at scrap metal prices.  When oil companies began drilling again, he owned oil drill rigs.

Skipping ahead, in 1995 Continental Resources used horizontal drilling to develop an oil field that it had discovered in North Dakota, that became named the Cedar Hills Field.  Prior to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing being used in the oil industry, it was cost prohibitive to drill and produce oil in North Dakota.  In 2003, Continental Resources began using horizontal drilling and fracturing in the Bakken Formation of North Dakota.

Currently, Continental Resources produces approximately 242,000 barrels of oil and natural gas, per day.  It’s primary operations are in North Dakota and Oklahoma.  A company pictorial chart shows that 50.4% of its production comes from North Dakota.

Harold Hamm’s net worth is about $15 billion.  I have wondered how being poor and uneducated, Harold Hamm was able to become one of the top 100 wealthiest Americans, when the oil industry is full of hardworking, stubborn, ruthless, greedy, talented, and educated, workers, operators, financiers, geologists, and engineers, all of whom just about never get ahead.  How could Harold Hamm be right, every time, at every juncture?  Or, wait a minute, is he?

It is probably not well known, that in North Dakota, the oil wells that are produced using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, they lose about 25% of their production volume every year.  Here is an example of what this decreasing oil production looks like:

  1. Year 2010, well completed, production = 100 barrels per day
  2. Year 2011,   25% decrease,  production = 75 barrels per day
  3. Year 2012,   25% decrease,  production = 56.3 barrels per day
  4. Year 2013,   25% decrease,  production = 42.2 barrels per day
  5. Year 2014,   25% decrease,  production = 31.7 barrels per day
  6. Year 2015,   25% decrease,  production = 23.8 barrels per day
  7. Year 2016,   25% decrease,  production = 17.9 barrels per day
  8. Year 2017,   25% decrease,  production = 13.4 barrels per day
  9. Year 2018,   25% decrease, production  = 10 barrels per day

(For reference, here is the link to one formal study that shows the oil production values for North Dakota wells produced using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11053-019-09559-5)

Using the oil production values that I listed in the table above, even at oil prices as low as $40 per barrel, oil companies should be able to recover their exploration, lease, site, drilling, and maintenance costs for an oil well at the end of two years, with the generation of roughly $2.5 million in oil revenue from this well.

However, the owner of the mineral rights where a North Dakota oil well is drilled, typically a farmer or rancher, whose oil revenue money keeps dropping by 25% or more each year, they are not going to look at this as a business venture where initial costs are recovered and subsequent years are profitable to a point, until obsolescence is reached, like the oil companies do.

The farmers and ranchers who have oil wells on their property, whose oil revenue money keeps decreasing each year for eight or ten years until it is nothing, they are going to feel like they were swindled.  They are going to be angry that the money didn’t keep coming in like it did initially, and now they have this nasty oil well or oil wells on their property that don’t profit them hardly at all.

Donald Trump will likely get re-elected in 2020, and serve until 2024.  But unfortunately this will probably be the last Republican president in the U.S. due to demographics.  The continued population growth of all the cities in every state, and the majority of these city dwellers voting Democrat, these Democrat voters will outnumber the conservative rural voters in every state.  Both the popular vote and the electoral college vote will be a majority Democrat in the 2024 elections.

When the Democrats have the presidency, and one or both houses of Congress, the EPA will expand, and the coal, natural gas, and oil industries will be blocked and attacked.  Not only will there likely be a halt to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which is now being called “well stimulation” due to controversy, there will be groups of environmentalist and activists who seek a platform to rant about all of the destruction, jeopardy, and poisoning that hydraulic fracturing has caused.

The farmers and ranchers in North Dakota with oil wells on their property, who were so disappointed by the 25% yearly drop in oil revenue money down to nothing, that they felt swindled by the oil companies, they will switch sides and become plaintiffs against the oil companies in all of the lawsuits seeking monetary damages from hydraulic fracturing, such as causing groundwater pollution, sink holes, earth fissures, and earthquakes.

Come 2024, many people will catch on that change is coming.  Oil companies that had good earnings, and steady or increasing stock prices, will become suspect due to concerns about legal liability.  It won’t just be Continental Resources, but Marathon Oil, Whiting, Hess, ConocoPhillips, every company that used hydraulic fracturing.

Once an oil company’s stock price begins to fall due to concern over huge legal liability lawsuits, how will the oil company be able to pay the enormous settlements?  Though oil companies were able to profitably produce oil in North Dakota due to hydraulic fracturing, which was Continental Resources’ biggest success, in the end this may be their undoing.

4 thoughts on “The Ruin Of Continental Resources

  1. I understand your perspective. However, it is a perspective through only one interpretative lens i.e. economic. I prefer this lens as well, especially when voting. In my experience, however, this lens is for the most part binary. People (generalization) are largely still trapped in the capitalism vs. socialism box. This lens is also used often in order to validate Confirmation Bias. For instance, you could have discussed the alternative economic opportunities with the “ruin” of Continental Resources, but you didn’t. Why? You have a vested interest in oil and natural gas. You must know that your reasoning violates a fundamental law of capitalism, right? Companies are supposed to fall, while others rise i.e. Creative Destruction. Without this fundamental law, capitalism would become stagnant and non-progressive.

    Other lenses are intellectually satisfying, including: Environmental, Religious, and Trans-National. I am inferring that the Environmental lens would agitate you, as is evidenced by your apparent dismissal that oil and gas companies could be damaging the environment. I’m not here to teach, but I’ve done many hours of research on the issue. The environmental violations exist and people should be concerned.

    I agree. However the demographics already favor Democrats. The Republican strategy has been gerrymandering and the Electoral College, in order to win. Not illegal, but this strategy does put the integrity of our Republic on trial. Perhaps not. Have you read Federalist 10 by James Madison? It’s a beautiful read. The Father of the Constitution explains why America can’t be a Democracy and why we must be a Republic. There are other inferences in there that spawn an interesting conversation that constitutionally legitimizes Donald Trump’s presidency. You may not need this, but many Democrats do. Great reference point the next time you get into a debate.

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    1. Dickinson Resident,
      I had not given any consideration to the idea that fracking would be banned in the future, until I was watching a car repair video on the YouTube channel of mechanic “Scotty Kilmer” in Houston, Texas, who either said or wrote the comment that fracking would be banned in the future. Scotty is in his 60s, he is very financially successful from just constantly working, thinking, and paying attention.

      I thought about Scotty’s comment, the fact that he has lived in Houston for more than thirty years, he talks to everybody, and he reads a lot, and I concluded that Scotty may be correct. There are some people who pay attention to or study hydraulic fracturing, who believe that the very high pressure injection of water containing chemicals deep underground, is polluting and contaminating underground water supplies. This may be one of those things that people thought was a good idea at the time, until later after widespread use, it turned out to be harmful, like asbestos, radium, thalidomide, or aerosols.

      The demographics of the U.S. will make it almost impossible for a Republican president to be elected after 2024, and both houses of Congress will be Democrat controlled as well. The Democrat president and Congress will go after the coal, natural gas, and oil industries, trying to block them, trying to stifle them, sicking the EPA, environmentalists, and activists on these industries, blaming them for pollution and environmental damage.

      As a result of business becoming difficult for the coal, natural gas, and oil industries, prices will increase, maybe significantly, causing widespread complaints from millions of consumers who can’t go without electricity, heat, and fuel for their automobiles. The Democrats are well aware of this effect ahead of time, they are prepared for it, and are ready to make two major proposals.

      1) Coal, natural gas, and oil come from deep underground, can any individual or corporation have a legal claim to what lies deep underground? Don’t these resources actually belong to everyone, hence the government should control these resources on behalf of everyone? 2) Since the energy industry corporations are so greedy and price gouging for essential goods and services, shouldn’t the government assume control of energy supply and distribution on behalf of the people?

      The goal of the Democrats, who currently seem to have many socialist/communist ideas, is for government to control/provide housing, education, healthcare, transportation, food, and energy.

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      1. You’re trapped in that capitalist vs. socialist binary opposition. Binary opposition is the first logical fallacy a graduate student of history and sociology must learn to negotiate. I wonder if you’re interested? Here is a youtube video that I found intellectually satisfying a couple of days ago. Peter Joseph and Jordan Peterson are two admirable intellects. I have read all of their books.
        Peterson is a brilliant man, but out of his depth concerning historical communism.
        Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7O_9708RmU

        As I said the demographics have favored the Democrats for awhile. That’s why the Republicans fight against gerrymandering laws and amending the Constitution in regards to the Electoral College. It’s unlikely that James Madison could have imagined modern politics, however, his Federalist 10 Paper made a potent argument against Democracy in America. The Federalists Papers were published in 1787 by Publius (James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay—First Chief Justice of the Supreme Court). The purpose of the papers was to support the new constitution and to act as an interpretative manual. Anyway, in Federalist 10 Madison says that America will be a Republic, not a Democracy. Why? In order to keep the commoners separated with factions. Why? So they can’t rise up and take the wealth of the “proper guardians of the public will” aka the landed aristocrats, who started the Revolutionary War because the British disallowed their un-taxed currency. What is a safe guard to the “commoners” rising up? The Electoral College and propaganda (aimed at limiting liberty and thought through voluntarism). What type of propaganda? An example would be that socialist vs. capitalist box that you’re stuck in. I understand your perception here, unfortunately it crumbles fairly easily with primary documents like Federalist 10 and context. I get it, it plays well in North Dakota and in other conservative states. Historically it’s a ruse, however. You can better understand this type of propaganda if you read through a summary of Moral Foundations. Here is a copy: https://moralfoundations.org/ In my experience, this theory is very effective in bringing down walls of conditioning.

        Let me ask you a question. In regards to fairness, do you favor equality or proportionality. The answer then leads to your other dominant moral foundations, and then into a discussion about hatred vs. disgust. One step in the direction of recognizing the logical fallacies (binary opposition) that your found of using.

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