Plummeting oil prices have prompted two of the largest energy producers in the Bakken oil fields to stop fracking, according to the Financial Times.
Continental Resources and Whiting Petroleum will stop bringing new wells into production. Both companies intend to drill wells in the Bakken through the rest of this year, but will leave them uncompleted to slash costs. Uncompleted wells need hydraulic fracturing to make them produce, a process that can account for up to two thirds of its total cost.
The announcement came as the companies reported earnings for 2015, which showed net losses of $354 million for Continental and $2.2 billion for Whiting, the Financial Times reported. Saudi Arabia’s oil minister said earlier this week that there will be no production cuts. Oil prices have fallen more than 70 percent since mid-2014.
Some workers say plunging oil prices have put pressure on companies to cut corners on safety.
A Reveal investigation last year found that top oil companies are rarely held accountable when workers die in the Bakken oil fields. The investigation detailed how major oil companies offer financial incentives to workers for speeding up production – potentially jeopardizing their safety.
The investigation led to more aggressive enforcement by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the Bakken. The agency also launched an initiative to scrutinize whether employers, including big oil companies, that are involved in workplace injuries and deaths pay their employees speed bonuses at the expense of safety.
In addition, North Dakota lawmakers are drafting legislation that would impose more stringent oversight of workplace safety and prevent energy producers from dodging responsibility when workers are killed or injured.
Reveal’s findings also prompted comedian John Oliver to urge North Dakotans to “get angry” with the oil industry for workers’ deaths in a segment for Last Week Tonight.