1.1 Billion Barrels of Chesapeake Oil Disappear with a Keystroke

Accounting is the “language of business.” Sometimes it appears to be spoken in a foreign tongue that is hard to understand. In addition to Chesapeake Energy’s major problems with lawsuits over royalties (see today’s top story about PA Attorney General Kane suing them), Chesapeake’s claim of how much oil (and gas) it can extract from its leased acreage, an important number on which loans are made, will decrease by an astonishing 45% this week. Poof! Nearly half what Chessy says is in the ground and available to extract just disappeared. How can that be? Accounting. In order to make a claim that “we have X barrels of oil, or X billion cubic feet of gas available to extract,” you have to be able to sell what you extract *at a profit* or it makes no sense to extract it and sell it. The formula drillers must use to prove they can extract it at a profit is set by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Because the price of oil and gas is low and not going up any time sooner, many companies, including Chesapeake, must now re-evaluate their numbers and restate their claims of how much inventory they have. And nearly half of Chessy’s inventory is now gone, with a few keystrokes and a spreadsheet formula…

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