US oil companies are locked in a real life Game of Thrones over the Permian basin, specifically Anadarkos assets there. It’s an area described by the Financial Times as “the thumping heart of the US shale oil boom.”
But what do the takeover bids circling through the media now for Anadarko Petroleum Corp have to do with Chris Watts?
Put on your thinking caps. You don’t need to know economics to understand the context of what follows; you just have to compare and contextualize dates and big numbers to other names and dates.
Worth playing for?
On June 15th, 2018, Anadarko signed a purchasing agreement with Centrica and Tokyo Gas for the rights to extract liquid natural gas [LNG] from the massive Mozambique field off the Southern African coast.
While this deal was still in the offing, and before it had been finalized, an obscure employee at an obscure site in Colorado [CERVI 319] used one of Anadarko’s fracking batteries to dispose of the remains of his murdered family. The case soon made local, then national then international headlines.
Bodies of two Frederick girls found inside oil and gas tanks, sources say – Denver Post [August 16th, 2018]
Father ‘stuffed daughters’ bodies in oil tanks so they wouldn’t smell, police say – New Zealand Herald [August 16th, 2018]
Had the Chris Watts trial been allowed to fulminate in the public space, and a full-blown criminal had played out, it would have been the equivalent of burning down the entire marketing apparatus the Anadarko brand had spent millions setting up and putting in place.
It wasn’t good timing for bad publicity. Barely six months earlier, Forbes reported on a consolidation wave sweeping the oil and gas industry. Majors were gobbling up oil minors and minnows at bargain basement prices. Deals were being made left and right with explorers that were going bust, pulling out or losing their nerve. A public relations implosion could burn away billions…
One of the big players in this push for the Permian Throne was Anadarko. And after a pause between August 2018 and March 2019, and Anadarko making itself prettier by December 2018, by April 2019 the game for the greasy black Permian Throne was back in full swing.
[E&P = exploration & production company]
So what caused the pause in the game, in August until April? Well, headlines like this on August 21st, 2018, just 8 days after the Watts Family Murders rocked Frederick Colorado.
Frederick is close to ground zero for Anadarko’s impressive Platteville run fracking portfolio.
But one assessment described Anadarko in the summer of 2018 as “becoming the foremost public enemy for anti-oil [anti-fracking] activists.” A disastrous home implosion at Firestone [neighboring Frederick], lead to several deaths and prompted political moves [known as Proposition 112] to regulate the oil and gas industry across Colorado, and beyond.
Had the proposals been implemented, they would have cost the entire industry dearly, and Anadarko in particular.
Anadarko spent almost $7 million in campaign finance to lobby the community to vote against Proposition 112, far more than any other entity, and more than triple the total raised by supporters of the proposition.
In sum, the oil-funded opposition raised almost $32 million in campaign funds, the biggest chunk as noted from Anadarko itself. The opposition barely raised $1.5 million.
Despite disproportionate campaign fundraising, Proposition 112 was narrowly defeated, with just over 55% of voters voting “No”.
From October 2018 [one month prior to the first hearings in the Watts criminal trial] Anadarko’s share prices fell, and continued to fall until the spring of 2019. What Anadarko were faced with, and what they had to do at all costs, was tame the dragon. And they did.
At the time the new environmental safety proposals were voted on, in fact the same day, Chris Watts’ “unexpectedly” took a plea deal in a rushed status hearing.
The status hearing itself was strange for its suddenness. It was announced late on a Friday afternoon [at 16:20 on November 2nd] when the District Attorney filed an innocuous sounding notice of a status hearing. It caught many off guard.
So did the hearing itself. What was dressed up to appear as a mere formality turned out to be quite shocking. A plea deal was announced.
Watts admitted guilt on all charges essentially shutting down the prospect of a high-profile criminal trial, one that was set to eclipse the liked of OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony and Jodi Arias.
That was November 2018.
A lot of discovery had to be dealt with over the following weeks and months, over Christmas, and into the first few months of the new year. Chris Watts’ mistress, a safety officer was interrogated on social media. The media however, was almost completely silent on Nichol Kessinger, as was Kessinger herself.
Then, when the dust had finally settled on the Watts case, this, on April 24th, 2019:
And remember that exploration purchasing agreement Anadarko was pursuing off the Southern African coast? In February 2019 Anadarko was still pursuing it, and apparently “closing in” on the supply deal.