The rise of Small Oil
Chevron is drilling again in the Gulf of Mexico, and the rest of Big Oil won’t be far behind now that the Obama administration has cleared the way, the Financial Times‘ Lex columnists report. As for the South China Sea and the Gulf of Guinea, they are under siege by upstarts like PetroVietnam and Ghana ...
Chevron is drilling again in the Gulf of Mexico, and the rest of Big Oil won’t be far behind now that the Obama administration has cleared the way, the Financial Times‘ Lex columnists report. As for the South China Sea and the Gulf of Guinea, they are under siege by upstarts like PetroVietnam and Ghana National Petroleum Co.
It’s not news that the age of Big Oil is waning, as national oil companies like Petrobras and the Chinese National Petroleum Co. drill their own reserves, and venture abroad as well. But PTT Exploration and Production? As Tim Johnston writes in the FT, Thailand’s state-owned oil group is hunting oil, gas and coal assets in Brunei, Indonesia and Madagascar with a $1.9 billion war chest. It may not seem like much considering the sums that Big Oil throws around, but Thai companies in general have been successful acquirers in recent months.
Call it the breakout of Small Oil. One might say the more the merrier, but what’s unnerving for Big Oil is that in recent cases, these small fry, lacking the technology, deep pockets, and experience to drill much more than the easiest prospects, are not turning to seasoned hands such as Exxon and BP as technical partners — they are forming alliances with larger national oil companies.
Such is the case in Ghana, which a year ago rejected a $4 billion bid by Exxon to buy Kosmos Energy’s 23.5 percent share of the offshore Jubilee oilfield, which contains some 1.8 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. Ghana National Petroleum appears likely to take the field itself in concert with the China National Offshore Oil Corp., or CNOOC, Bloomberg reports. CNOOC has offered $5 billion. A twist is that Statoil, Norway’s state oil company — technically an NOC, but one that has long been accepted in Big Oil’s locker room — may be invited into the deal as well.
In Vietnam, BP — which is divesting itself of assets around the world in order to raise cash to cover debts from its summer oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — has said it wants to sell a slew of assets to TNK-BP, its Russian partnership. Such an arrangement would leave the properties in the family, provide BP with cash, and satisfy its restive Russian partners, who favor overseas expansion. But now PetroVietnam says it may want the properties, which include highly prized gas condensate fields (valued because the hydrocarbons are easily refined) called Lan Tay and Lan Do, Platts reports. BP’s Vietnamese sale also includes a power plant (Phu My) and a pipeline (Nam Con Son).
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