Energy companies may be overstating data on their natural gas wells, The New York Times reports.
Some projections may be thinly veiled plans to window-dress balance sheets, according to the newspaper's analysis of industry emails and internal documents.
"In the emails, energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts voice skepticism about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves," the newspaper reports.
"Many of these emails also suggest a view that is in stark contrast to more bullish public comments made by the industry, in much the same way that insiders have raised doubts about previous financial bubbles."
While some natural gas wells are profitable, others are not or may cost more to drill than once thought, especially shale projects.
Also, many successful wells are seeing output taper off faster than projected.
Natural gas companies were quick to reject the report, including Chesapeake Energy.
"The Times story was obviously motivated by an anti-natural gas agenda. It is telling that the reporter chose not to interview a single reliable source and instead selectively quoted emails from unnamed sources or well-known industry critics dating back to as early as 2007 to invent a series of inaccurate and misleading allegations," Chesapeake CEO Aubrey K. McClendon said in a statement.
"By analyzing our own and industry peer well performance, we know that the initial productivity of a majority of the industry's shale gas wells have been steadily improving, both in initial production rates and the expected ultimate recoveries of natural gas."
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