The Gray Lady Speaks

How a ‘Monster’ Texas Oil Field Made the U.S. a Star in the World Market

Last year alone, the Permian’s production rose by a million barrels a day, and it could surpass the Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest, within three years. Now producing four million barrels a day, the Permian generates more oil than any of the 14 members of OPEC except Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

As many as 15 oil and gas pipelines serving the Permian are expected to be completed by the middle of 2020, potentially increasing exports from the Gulf of Mexico fourfold to eight million barrels a day after 2021, according to a recent Morningstar Commodities Research report.

“I will have work here forever,” said Mike Wilkinson, a truck driver who came from Dallas a year ago and moved into a trailer with his teenage daughter. “As hard a place as this is to look at, they are going to need guys like me to move equipment around here for years to come.”

With a major acquisition in New Mexico last year, Exxon Mobil became the most active driller in the basin, and projects that it will increase production fivefold by 2025. Also growing rapidly here, Chevron estimates that one in six of every barrels it produces globally will come from the Permian by 2021.

“For Shell, the Permian is absolutely critical,” said Gretchen Watkins, president of Shell Oil. “The Permian is massive; it’s a game changer for U.S. shale. It is the powerhouse field.”