A fracking binge in the American shale industry has permanently damaged the country’s oil and gas reserves, threatening hopes for a production recovery and U.S. energy independence, according to one of the sector’s top investors.

Wil VanLoh, CEO of Quantum Energy Partners, a private equity firm that through its portfolio companies is the biggest U.S. driller after Exxon Mobil Corp., said too much fracking had “sterilized a lot of the reservoir in North America.”

“That’s the dirty secret about shale,” VanLoh told the Financial Times, noting wells had often been drilled too closely to one another. “What we’ve done for the last five years is we’ve drilled the heart out of the watermelon.”

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