OPINION: There is an old saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. While 225,000 acres in the US Permian basin are hardly garbage, Shell’s $9.5 billion sale of its assets in the prolific shale play to ConocoPhillips shows how the oil and gas industry is being pulled in very different directions.

European powerhouses such as Shell and BP are approaching their future operations with the idea of reducing production of hydrocarbons in the coming years.

Anglo-Dutch supermajor Shell has little choice: A court in The Hague has ordered the company to cut its global emissions 45% by 2030.

That makes assets in a play such as the Permian, where methane emissions remain high, a reasonably clear choice for divestment.

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While US supermajors such as ExxonMobil and Chevron are being pushed by activist investors to reduce emissions and production of hydrocarbons, shareholders in independents are looking for better results at reduced costs.

There are few places on the planet where oil and gas can be produced more cheaply and efficiently than the Permian, thanks to the shale boom.

Independents such as ConocoPhillips and Pioneer Natural Resources have gone on a spending spree, adding Permian acreage to maximise their economies of scale.

ExxonMobil and Chevron remain in the Permian, but the area is increasingly becoming the domain of the mid-majors, with such shale plays fitting their business models.

Yet for massive corporations in the crosshairs of environmental groups, Permian production may not be worth the problems.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)