Associate Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources

Emerging NOCs need to adjust their plans and ambitions to the new realities of price and competition for investment, writes Valérie Marcel.

Cargo ship loaded with a juck-up rig. Photo: Mavroudakis Fotis Photography/Getty Images.Cargo ship loaded with a jack-up rig. Photo: Getty Images.

Summary

  • The fall in oil prices since mid-2014 has profoundly changed the prospects for national oil companies (NOCs). If, as seems likely, prices remain low for a number of years, investors will be far more cautious, international oil companies will see reduced cash flows, and many exploration projects will be put on hold or cancelled. NOCs, and the oil and gas industry as a whole, must reconsider their strategies.
  • This will have an impact on the ambitious plans that some emerging producers had nurtured for national participation in the petroleum sector, forcing them to refocus on an affordable strategy for developing upstream capabilities.
  • Governments of emerging and prospective producer countries, and their NOCs, need to understand the cost of various NOC roles, and how these can be financed at different stages of developing the resource base. This will enable them to formulate clear and appropriate strategies for the future.
  • The current environment offers an opportunity for governments to refocus their efforts on defining a mandate that supports their national vision and priorities. This requires an evaluation of the resource base, national capabilities (including those of the NOC) and possible revenue streams, so that the NOC can be tasked with a role it can execute and the state can afford.
  • Governments must approve clear revenue streams for NOCs.
  • NOCs should focus on costs, as well as on strong accounting and reporting standards.
  • Governments and NOCs should be strategic about capacity-building, so that efforts and scarce resources are dedicated to building the right skills and using them on the job.