Peak Nationalism: The New Seven Sisters in an Era of $100 Oil

Two very interesting looks at impact that the high price of oil is having upon petro-states and the New Seven Sisters. The first, from the Economist, notes that while oil is now almost five times more expensive than it was at the beginning of 2002, the price increase is primarily a result of geography, not geology. As the article notes:

“…The biggest impediment [to increased production] is political. Governments in almost all oil-rich countries, from Ecuador to Kazakhstan, are trying to win a greater share of the industry’s bumper profits. That is natural enough, but they often deter private investment or exclude it altogether. The world’s oil supply would increase markedly if Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell had freer access to Russia, Venezuela and Iran. In short, the world is facing not peak oil, but a pinnacle of nationalism.”

And, as The Wall Street Journal points out, in a world of $100 oil, Big Oil is no longer in charge. Exxon, Shell and Chevron have been overtaken by Gazprom, Aramco and Qatar Petroleum. Even Exxon — the most successful of any of the Big Oil giants — has only the 13th-largest oil reserves among the world’s oil companies. The twelve biggest are all state-owned. As the article notes:

“…The surging price of oil, from just over $10 a barrel a decade ago to $100 yesterday, is altering the wealth and influence of nations and industries around the world….

…The long oil-price boom is posing wrenching challenges for the world’s poorest nations, while enriching and emboldening producers in the Middle East, Russia and Venezuela. Their increasing muscle has a flip side: a decline of U.S. clout in many parts of the world.

…Oil-rich nations, seeking to take greater command of their resources, are marginalizing the once-mighty Western oil companies. For the first time since World War II, the future of oil and gas production isn’t in the hands of Texas-educated engineers working for U.S. companies but of executives at companies like Qatar Petroleum and Russian behemoth OAO Gazprom.

Gone are the days when companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC had an unmatchable combination of financial clout and technological know-how. Thanks to several years of high prices, government-controlled oil companies have the financial muscle to bankroll their own projects.

And they have access to the latest tools for finding oil and drilling holes. During the last downturn, in the 1990s, big oil companies outsourced many of these tasks to oil-field-service companies. Now the national oil companies can hire these service companies directly, bypassing integrated Western oil giants.

…As the state-owned giants grow more confident and self-sufficient, they have begun to compete aggressively for resources beyond their borders. Last year, Libya put some potentially oil-rich acreage out for bids. While Exxon Mobil won some of it, so too did state-controlled oil companies from Russia, India and China.

More than from their bank accounts, national oil companies’ strength stems from their control of resources. Exxon Mobil, with a market capitalization of around $500 billion, is one of the largest and most successful publicly traded companies ever. But there are 12 state-controlled oil companies, such as Saudi Aramco and PetroChina Co., that control more oil reserves….”

This entry was posted on Friday, January 4th, 2008 at 4:30 pm and is filed under China, Dubai, Iran, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, UAE.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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Wildcats & Black Sheep is a personal interest blog dedicated to the identification and evaluation of maverick investment opportunities arising in frontier - and, what some may consider to be, “rogue” or “black sheep” - markets around the world.

Focusing primarily on The New Seven Sisters - the largely state owned petroleum companies from the emerging world that have become key players in the oil & gas industry as identified by Carola Hoyos, Chief Energy Correspondent for The Financial Times - but spanning other nascent opportunities around the globe that may hold potential in the years ahead, Wildcats & Black Sheep is a place for the adventurous to contemplate & evaluate the emerging markets of tomorrow.