Redefining 'reserves'

Booming development of unconventional oil and gas resources has complicated the US Securities and Exchange Commission's regulation of the unaudited reserves estimates publicly traded producers must attach to their financial statements. Production from shales and other continuous, low-permeability reservoirs began to climb at about the time SEC was adapting its rules to advances in technology, an essential element of reserves estimation. The adaptations came in rules changes SEC adopted in 2008 and made effective in 2009. Among other things, they addressed two important nongeologic factors in reserves estimation: oil and gas prices and technology. They changed the price benchmark to a 12-m...

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