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Financial Times: Saudis head a rich field

Published: March 12 2007 02:00 | Last updated: March 12 2007 02:00

With 25 per cent of the world’s oil reserves and the capacity to produce nearly triple the amount of any other group, Saudi Aramco is the world’s most successful national oil company. The House of Saud dictates energy policy but leaves day-to-day strategy to the capable technocrats who run it.

Saudi Aramco is investing $50bn (£26bn, €38bn) over 15-20 years but its biggest fields are ageing.

Gazprom

No other company keeps Europe, and increasingly Asia, on tenterhooks more than Gazprom. As a tool of the Kremlin, it has been involved in a gas dispute with Ukraine and a debate with Japan and China over competing pipelines from Siberia as well as the grab of Royal Dutch Shell’s majority stake in the Sakhalin II liquefied natural gas project.

Gazprom has increased its influence with upstream deals in central Asia, including Iran. Downstream, itspush into the European market has set off moves to limit its access.

CNPC/PetroChina

All three of China’s top oil companies have been making ambitious moves abroad. But China National Petroleum Corporation, with its 88 per cent owned PetroChina as a listed subsidiary, is the biggest and has the widest international reach.

PetroChina holds most of its overseas assets in a joint venture with its parent and is active in about 20 countries from Azerbaijan to Ecuador. CNPC retains sole control of its controversial assets in Sudan.

NIOCIran is one of the few Middle East countries with massive hydrocarbon wealth that is open to investment by foreign energy companies. National Iranian Oil Company has partnerships with Italian, French, Dutch and Norwegian companies and collaborates with Chinese and Russian groups.

Yet South Pars, the world’s biggest gas field, remains so untapped that Iran is a net gas importer.

PDVSA

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez this year signed a law that allows PDVSA to seize control of the $30bn Orinoco Belt heavy crude oil projects. PDVSA’s production is shrinking but it is still important to the fortunes of international energy groups, many of whose contracts are being rewritten.

Petrobras

The strength of Petrobras is in finding and producing oil from deep waters. Expertise gained in Brazil’s waters is being applied in offshore west Africa and the Gulf of Mexico, where its Cottonwood field is in production.

Petronas

Malaysia’s national oil company has been described as the role model others would like to follow. Though a top-three exporter of LNG, Petronas risks falling behind the gas groups of Qatar, Nigeria and Indonesia.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

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