Eddy County — In New Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert, Exxon Mobil is building a massive shale oil project that its executives boast will allow it to ride out the industry's notorious boom-and-bust cycles. Workers at its Remuda lease near Carlsbad — part of a staff of 5,000 spread across New Mexico and Texas — are drilling wells, operating fleets of hydraulic pumps and digging trenches for pipelines. The sprawling site reflects the massive commitment to the Permian Basin by oil majors, who have spent an estimated $10bn buying ground in the top US shale field since the beginning of 2017, according to research firm Drillinginfo. The rising investment also reflects a recognition that Exxon, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and BP largely missed out on the first phase of the Permian shale bonanza while more nimble independent producers, who pioneered shale drilling technology, leased Permian acreage on the cheap. Now that the field has made the US the world's top oil producer, Exxon and other major...

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