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How Do You Restart an Oil Well That’s Frozen Solid?

  • Restoration could take weeks as thaw reveals extent of damage
  • Restoring power and access to well sites will be critical
Idle oil drilling rigs in the snow at a lot near Midland, Texas on Feb. 13.
Idle oil drilling rigs in the snow at a lot near Midland, Texas on Feb. 13.Photographer: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg

Restarting oil and gas wells closed by the extreme cold sweeping much of the U.S. isn’t going to be quick or easy, even once the ice thaws and power is restored.

Oil production nationwide has been cut by at least a third and in the Permian Basin of Texas, the heart of America’s shale industry, output has plummeted by as much as 65%. But bringing flows back is likely to take much longer than it took for them to slump.