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A drill of Whiting Petroleum. Photo: AFP / Stringer/Getty Images

The oil-and-gas producer Whiting Petroleum said Wednesday that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing the "severe downturn" in prices stemming from the Saudi-Russia price war and the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: The Wall Street Journal notes that Whiting, a substantial producer in North Dakota's prolific shale regions, is the "first sizable fracking company to succumb to the crash in oil prices."

Whiting produced roughly 125,000 barrels of oil-equivalent per day in 2019. It has assets in North Dakota, Montana and Colorado.

Where it stands: Whiting, among the companies already under financial strain before the price collapse, announced a proposed restructuring that includes giving certain creditors a 97% stake in the company in exchange for relief on $2.2 billion in debt.

What's next: A number of oil-and-gas companies are under strain as oil prices have collapsed to their lowest levels in roughly two decades.

  • There's an unprecedented drop in global demand as COVID-19 freezes huge amounts of travel and economic activity.
  • "As many as 40% of U.S. oil and gas companies could crater into bankruptcy or distress over the next two years as they grapple with a market crash and the coronavirus outbreak, according to asset manager Pickering Energy Partners LP," per Bloomberg.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.