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A Game of Thrones over the Permian and the baby dragon in an egg that was the Chris Watts Criminal Trial

US oil companies are locked in a real life Game of Thrones over the Permian basin, specifically Anadarkos assets there. It’s an area described by the Financial Times as “the thumping heart of the US shale oil boom.”



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But what do the takeover bids circling through the media now for Anadarko Petroleum Corp have to do with Chris Watts?

Put on your thinking caps. You don’t need to know economics to understand the context of what follows; you just have to compare and contextualize dates and big numbers to other names and dates.

Worth playing for?

On June 15th, 2018, Anadarko signed a purchasing agreement with Centrica and Tokyo Gas for the rights to extract liquid natural gas [LNG] from the massive Mozambique field off the Southern African coast.

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While this deal was still in the offing, and before it had been finalized, an obscure employee at an obscure site in Colorado [CERVI 319] used one of Anadarko’s fracking batteries to dispose of the remains of his murdered family. The case soon made local, then national then international headlines.

Bodies of two Frederick girls found inside oil and gas tanks, sources say – Denver Post [August 16th, 2018]

Father ‘stuffed daughters’ bodies in oil tanks so they wouldn’t smell, police say – New Zealand Herald [August 16th, 2018]


Had the Chris Watts trial been allowed to fulminate in the public space, and a full-blown criminal had played out, it would have been the equivalent of burning down the entire marketing apparatus the Anadarko brand had spent millions setting up and putting in place.

It wasn’t good timing for bad publicity. Barely six months earlier, Forbes reported on  a consolidation wave sweeping the oil and gas industry. Majors were gobbling up oil minors and minnows at bargain basement prices. Deals were being made left and right with explorers that were going bust, pulling out or losing their nerve. A public relations implosion could burn away billions…

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One of the big players in this push for the Permian Throne was Anadarko. And after a pause between August 2018 and March 2019, and Anadarko making itself prettier by December 2018, by April 2019 the game for the greasy black Permian Throne was back in full swing.

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[E&P = exploration & production  company]

So what caused the pause in the game, in August until April? Well, headlines like this on August 21st, 2018, just 8 days after the Watts Family Murders rocked Frederick Colorado.

Anadarko: Mounting Risks, National Headlines, Inept Management, And Terrible Tragedies

Frederick is close to ground zero for Anadarko’s impressive Platteville run fracking portfolio.

But one assessment described Anadarko in the summer of 2018 as “becoming the foremost public enemy for anti-oil [anti-fracking] activists.” A disastrous home implosion at Firestone [neighboring Frederick], lead to several deaths and prompted political moves [known as Proposition 112] to regulate the oil and gas industry across Colorado, and beyond.

Had the proposals been implemented, they would have cost the entire industry dearly, and Anadarko in particular.

Anadarko spent almost $7 million in campaign finance to lobby the community to vote against Proposition 112, far more than any other entity, and more than triple the total raised by supporters of the proposition.

In sum, the oil-funded opposition raised almost $32 million in campaign funds, the biggest chunk as noted from Anadarko itself. The opposition barely raised $1.5 million.

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Despite disproportionate campaign fundraising, Proposition 112 was narrowly defeated, with just over 55% of voters voting “No”.

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From October 2018 [one month prior to the first hearings in the Watts criminal trial] Anadarko’s share prices fell, and continued to fall until the spring of 2019. What Anadarko were faced with, and what they had to do at all costs, was tame the dragon. And they did.

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At the time the new environmental safety proposals were voted on, in fact the same day, Chris Watts’ “unexpectedly” took a plea deal in a rushed status hearing.

The status hearing itself was strange for its suddenness. It was announced late on a Friday afternoon [at 16:20 on November 2nd] when the District Attorney filed an innocuous sounding notice of a status hearing. It caught many off guard.

Chris Watts: Deal or No Deal? [Novembert 5th, 2018]

So did the hearing itself. What was dressed up to appear as a mere formality turned out to be quite shocking. A plea deal was announced.

Watts admitted guilt on all charges essentially shutting down the prospect of a high-profile criminal trial, one that was set to eclipse the liked of OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony and Jodi Arias.

Chris Watts reaches plea deal to avoid death penalty in deaths of pregnant wife, 2 daughters

DA addresses Chris Watts’ guilty plea in the murder of his pregnant wife, two young daughters

Chris Watts Cried in Court, Wore Bulletproof Vest While Pleading Guilty to Murdering Pregnant Wife, Daughters

That was November 2018.

A lot of discovery had to be dealt with over the following weeks and months, over Christmas, and into the first few months of the new year. Chris Watts’ mistress, a safety officer was interrogated on social media. The media however, was almost completely silent on Nichol Kessinger, as was Kessinger herselfFullscreen capture 20190425 152553Fullscreen capture 20190425 152626.

Then, when the dust had finally settled on the Watts case, this, on April 24th, 2019:


Anadarko Petroleum (APC) Stock: Climbing On Takeover Offer

A bidding war breaks out as Occidental Petroleum makes $38 billion offer for Anadarko, topping Chevron’s 

Anadarko Changed CEO’s Potential Payout Before Chevron Deal

Occidental Petroleum tops Chevron’s deal for Anadarko

Occidental seeks to outbid Chevron with $57bn offer for US explorer Anadarko

Occidental makes competing offer for Anadarko Petroleum

Cramer: Chevron’s Anadarko merger won’t be the only oil deal this year

And remember that exploration purchasing agreement Anadarko was pursuing off the Southern African coast? In February 2019 Anadarko was still pursuing it, and apparently “closing in” on the supply deal.


Then, on February 5th they finally signed their deal.

Anadarko inks new Mozambique LNG supply deal



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More: Black Sunday and the demise of the American shale oil industry


  1. richard

    Makes me wonder if someone from Chris former employer had a quiet word in his ear (something along the lines of ‘take a plea deal and you get to live).
    which plays very well into Chris Watts thinking.
    which also goes against the odds of Chris Watts and his petrol can idea of taking his own life after getting rid of the family (he was seen loading a petrol can in his pick up truck by the neighbours camera).
    Don’t forget, he wants everyone to like him. taking his own life was never the plan which sets him apart from other family annihilators

    • Ralph Oscar

      “Makes me wonder if someone from Chris former employer had a quiet word in his ear (something along the lines of ‘take a plea deal and you get to live) which plays very well into Chris Watts thinking.”

      I don’t think so. I think it was more like “Take the plea deal and Nichol gets to live, and your dad gets to live, and your mom gets to live. Take the plea deal and we won’t have to provide a half dozen gay prostitutes to testify that you like it rough and dirty.”

  2. Ralph Oscar

    Also, let’s not forget that the MLM company promoting the “Thrive” snake oil Shan’Ann was selling, LeVel, would likewise not want the state of the Watts’ finances to be shown the light of day in court. LeVel knew full well how their scam destroyed lives and ruined finances; they had abundant incentive to lean on Chris to take the plea deal, because they would NOT want their effect on the family’s financial situation to be examined in a highly publicized trial and, worst of all, reported to the public. So Chris may well have been pressured on that front as well.

  3. Sylvester

    Does anyone believe “father stuffed daughter’s bodies in oil tanks so they wouldn’t smell” (New Zealand Herald article and according to police)? Watt’s has changed his confession to killing the girls in his truck – so what smell? They would have gone, according to him, right from the truck to the oil tanks. I think it far more likely he knew they would be harder to find there, harder to remove, and he knew what oil could do to a corpse. Look what it does to the fish and fowl of the sea when there’s an off-shore oil spill. Makes me sick.

    This is an interesting supposition here. A Watts trial would have been sensational, and right in the middle of a merge and acquisition and a vote to stop expansion. Even though they quickly fired Watts and his mistress, Anadarko wouldn’t want to be linked to anymore bad press.

    • nickvdl

      I took it that by putting them in the tanks, the cadaver smell [which would have gotten a lot worse a week or two later] wouldn’t be detected and eventually the bodies would disappear. If true it makes sense Shan’ann was buried nearby to be disposed of in the same way perhaps a few weeks later.

  4. Sylvester

    Yes, he could have gone back later and put her remains in oil. If he hadn’t of left the sheet behind …..things might have turned out differently.

  5. richard

    If Nickole Atkinson hadn’t figured out so quickly that something was wrong and Chris knew Shanann’s code to unlock her phone, then there was a good chance that Chris could have taken the pressure off himself and then had time to go back to Cervi 319 (in shanann’s car) and then clean up the place and had time to get away with it

  6. Sylvester

    I do like running other scenarios over in my mind. If for example, he had left the bodies in the house of course he would be the first one they looked at, but he was anyway. He could have left the back patio door open – or unlocked. The neighbor’s video cam wouldn’t have captured someone coming across the back field and leaving that way. To make it convincing Chris could have taken some items from the house – jewelry and medications. Someone I know has had several break ins. The police told her the criminals are usually looking for guns or drugs. She has no guns, just a few prescriptions, but they didn’t take them. For their time and trouble they couldn’t find anything so just took some jewelry. They ransacked several rooms, however, and wore gloves. They came in from the back patio door. The time before that they broke a window, but the alarm went off. I think the patio door wasn’t armed, which is odd. It is now.

    In any event, had Watts murdered his family and left them in the house he could have gone on to work as usual, the assumption being they were alive when he left. There would be no need to take her cell phone either, since the criminals would have left it behind. Had he known about the doctor’s appointment he could have shown up there too, to “support” her. Then placed several calls –
    “where are you?” And gotten nervous enough to call the police himself.

    ME’s have a difficult time giving an accurate TOD. But it wouldn’t have been wise of Watts to have drugged the children if he’s staging a break in. A criminal wants to get in and get out. Not take the time to give children drugs.

    So that’s how I would have done it, if I were Watts. And, he could have allowed Nickole A. and the police to discover the bodies. Must have been a break in gone terribly wrong.

    • CBH

      Fascinating remarks.

    • Ralph Oscar

      That *definitely* could have worked. I wonder, though – it would have required that he kill his children violently. Could he do that? The scenario where he drugs them and then places plastic bags over their heads, taped around their necks – they simply go to sleep and don’t wake up. So peaceful, so easy. He also could have simply OD’d them on Shan’Ann’s painkillers. Chris *hated* confrontations, and however much he had grown to want to be rid of his family, I don’t know that he’d have been able to bring himself to strangle them as they fought and cried.

      Question: IF Chris had murdered Shan’Ann ca. 2 AM and then arranged for no one to discover the bodies until around 1 PM, would the medical examiner have been able to determine that the TOD was *before* Chris left for work at 5:30 AM? He’d want it to appear that they were murdered ca. 8 AM or so – any time after he left for work (if it was a break-in turned deadly). Could the timing have worked if he’d murdered them all *before* he left for work at 5:30 AM?

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