Some of the biggest economies in the world hinge on revenues generated by oil and gas companies. The industry also dictates our growing dependency on energy. Some of the biggest oil companies in the world even underpin the political and socio-economic dynamics within a country and its place and role on the world stage. The employment opportunities these companies offer, the almost gamble like nature that lures many a player into raising, winning or losing stakes. We would say it’s all of the above.
OilVoice lists the top five oil super majors and interestingly they all happen to be national oil companies.
1. Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco)
Leading the oil giants of the world is Saudi Aramco, a company run by Saudi Arabian government. The company owns and operates one fifth of the world’s total oil reserves that is roughly equivalent to 260 billion barrels of oil. Its estimated net production for the year 2010 was 2.887 billion barrels of oil, which amounts to 7.91 million barrels of oil per day. If the figures aren’t awe inspiring enough, the company’s natural gas annual output is pegged at 9.388 billions of standard cubic feet per day (2010). The company employs 55,000 workers and controls and manages 112 oil and gas fields in Saudi Arabia (2010).
The initial foundation of the company was laid as far back as the 1930′s when oil exploration was rapidly gaining momentum in the Gulf triggered by oil finds in the neighbouring states Persia, Iraq and Bahrain. It was an American company called the Standard Oil Company of California that first saw promise in the land and signed the first concession. The company then went from strength to strength bolstered by the resource rich fields and Saudis slowly replacing the board and taking over the reins completely. Today, Saudi Aramco supplies more than 10% of global oil demand and owns and operates oil refineries. It is positioned strongly in the global market and has monopolised the domestic space. It has the kingdom’s best fleet of oil tankers and its investments are in many countries including China, Japan, South Korea and the US.
2. National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC)
The history of NIOC can be traced back to 28 May 1901, when the first concession was signed by Liam Knox D’arcy and Mozaffarol din- Shah of Qajar for exploration and production of oil across Iran. However, the establishment of National Iranian Oil Company, a nationalised oil giant was realised in the year 1951 marked by the hoisting of the Iranian flag on the company’s Khorramshahr headquarters.
Positioned strategically in one of the world’s largest oil and natural gas reserves, the NIOC fields hold an estimated 137 billion barrels of liquid hydrocarbons and 29 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The company is comprised of 17 production companies, eight technical service companies, seven managements, and five organisational units.
Its production capacity of over 4 million barrels of crude oil per day helps sustain the supply for an extensive international market it has created for itself. It was anticipated that the company’s production ratio would slip to 12% in the next 20 years.
However, in the year ending March 2008, with the discovery and development of five new oil fields the company ramped up its in place reserves by 2,840 million barrels of crude oil, 1,045 billion cubic meters of gas and 898 million barrels of NGL.
Today the National Iranian Oil Company stands as Iran oil industry’s watch dog with the responsibility of drafting policies and regulations impacting domestic markets and world trade alike. The company has created a place for itself in playing a vital role in the political dynamics of modern day industrialised nations.
3. Qatar Petroleum
Qatar Petroleum is the third largest oil firm in the world. It is state owned and is led by the country’s Ministry of Energy and Industry. As a result, the company has political clout and the advantage of harnessing the nation’s most precious and abundant resource – oil. The company contributes to 60% of Qatar’s GDP and its operations are branched in to exploration, production, refining, transport and storage for crude oil, natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG).
The company’s onshore crude oil reserves are 1,842 million barrels and onshore gas reserves are approximately 8 trillion cu. ft, making it the third largest in the world in terms of reserves in place. QP’s Dukhan oil field alone produces 335,000 barrels per day. The company’s reach to the international markets is extensive with exports extending to North America, Asia and Europe, thanks to its partnerships with oil conglomerates like ExxonMobil, Total and Occidental.
The initial concessions in Qatar were granted to British and US oil giants, it wasn’t until 1973 that the government initiated a progressive take over of stakes in onshore concessions of Qatar Petroleum Company and interest in offshore concessions of Shell Company Qatar. Qatar Petroleum as a unified state run company emerged in the year 1974 after the government nationalised the oil sector.
4. Iraq National Oil Company (INOC)
Iraq National Oil Company (INOC) is a group of regional units linked together that look into exploration, production, refining, storage and transport of oil. The basis for the formation of this company was Iraq Petroleum Company, which was made to transfer its concessions to the Iraqi government on grounds that the company was catering to the west. The Public Law 80 that was passed in 1961 compelled the management of the company to surrender 95% of its concessions to the government. On June 1st, 1972, Iraq’s Ba’athist regime nationalised the company on grounds that IPC was unwilling to concede to the government’s demands paving way to the present day Iraq National Oil Company.
The initial years under the government rule saw the production rise significantly from 1.4 million barrels a day to over 3 million barrels a day in 1980. However the war with Iran adversely impacted the country’s production capacity.
INOC comes directly under Iraq’s oil ministry and hence it also acts as a regulator of the oil production and market. The company’s combined reserves in place are estimated at 115 billion barrels and worldwide natural gas reserves are 119,940 billion cubic feet (2007).
5. Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA)
Petroleos de Venezuela is a state run company and the world’s fifth largest in terms of reserves in place and exports. The company manages both upstream (exploration, production and processing) and downstream (refining, marketing, transport) operations. PDVSA represents Venezuela’s oil industry. It emerged in the year 1976 with the nationalisation of the country’s oil sector.
A major chunk of the oil rich fields in the Americas are owned and operated by Venezuela, constituting almost half of the lands combined total. Conventional oil reserves of the company are estimated at 77.5 billion barrels along with natural gas reserves that are pegged at 150 trillion cubic feet.
One of the most important events in the history of the company is the Venezuelan general strike of 2002-2003 that led to a halt in production for two months. Thousands of employees were fired in a bid to suppress the protest against the then ruling president, Hugo Chavez. The strike also had a ripple effect on the country’s economy with unemployment reaching its peak of over 20% in March 2003. Today the company boasts of its own army to safeguard its autonomy and socialist doctrine from a government ‘coup’.
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