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Big Oil Companies Struggle to Justify Soaring Project Costs

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By Daniel Gilbert and Justin Scheck: Jan. 28, 2014 11:00 p.m. ET

Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC spent more than $120 billion in 2013 to boost their oil and gas output—about the same cost in today’s dollars as putting a man on the moon.

But the three oil giants have little to show for all their big spending. Oil and gas production are down despite combined capital expenses of a half-trillion dollars in the past five years. Each company is expected to report later this…

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