Big Oil faces a slowing economy and renewed trade war

A barrel of oil knocked over forming a frowny face
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Oil and natural gas companies are staring down the barrel of a slowing economy, President Trump's on-again-off-again Chinese trade war, persistently low oil prices that plunged yesterday, and even lower natural gas prices.

Where it stands: Big Oil's second-quarter earnings are mixed this week. European majors Total, Eni and Shell reported large drops in profits while BP "bucked the trend." On this side of the Atlantic, ExxonMobil faced a 21% drop in quarterly profit while Chevron saw a 26.3% rise in its quarterly profits, per Reuters.

Exxon Mobil Texas refinery rocked by explosion and fire

Smoke rises from a fire at Exxon Mobil's refining and chemical plant complex in Baytown, near Houston, Texas.
Fire at Exxon Mobil's complex in Baytown, near Houston, Texas. Photo: Reuters/Erwin Seba

An explosion and fire at an Exxon Mobil oil refinery in Baytown, Texas, caused minor injuries to 37 workers and forced nearby residents inside on Wednesday before being brought under control, Reuters reports.

The big picture: This is the second big explosion at an American refinery in as many weeks. The other was in Pennsylvania, where the economically struggling refinery shut down after the explosion. These disasters show the inherent risk we take with our dependence on explosive fuels for our lives. This Texas refinery makes products that go into plastics.