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Oil and Gas Exploration Bankruptcies Could Sextuple This Year

An oil well fielder works at a fracking rig site near Stillwater, Oklahoma.An oil well fielder works at a fracking rig site near Stillwater, Oklahoma.
An oil well fielder works at a fracking rig site near Stillwater, Oklahoma.Photograph by J Pat Carter—Getty Images

Ever since the price of oil started slipping in 2014, economists have worried about bankruptcies among the nation’s highly leveraged oil and gas companies. Now, after oil’s nosedive, 2016 could be the year it comes to a head. Deloitte estimates that a third of global oil and gas exploration and production companies—with a combined debt of over $150 billion—are at high risk of default or bankruptcy or default, unless something dramatic changes. The larger financial impact, and thousands of attendant job losses, could make cheap gas a lot less thrilling.

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A version of this article appears in the April 1, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline “Bankruptcies Loom in the Fracking Industry.”