In praise of perpetuity
by Alexandre Lavelle
October 2017
National oil companies manifesto

Perpetuity is every national oil company’s mission. Their articles of incorporation proclaim that they must toil for future generations. While international operators can wander from one country to the next according to the circumstances and various regulatory frameworks of producing countries, national oil companies cannot be so versatile. Neither can they pick and choose geologies; they remain attached to the hydrocarbon heritage exploited on behalf of their people. This praise of perpetuity is a tribute from ARTHUR D. LITTLE (ADL) to national oil companies, which strive to forge a path in a blurry world towards their historical destiny.

Gaze at the beige shades of dunes peppered by countless wells from your airplane window as you land at Hassi Messaoud airport in Algeria. Make out the drilling barges sprinkled across flooded forests as you fly over West Siberia in a relief helicopter. Follow pipelines and manifolds around the street corners of Kuwait’s residential neighborhoods. You will comprehend the petroleum industry’s promethean work of transformation, shaping on its way to its processing facilities, the land and maritime vistas of our humanity, as we enter a new Anthropocene.

States, multinational corporations and non-governmental organizations aggregate in financial, logistical and information networks that send men to extract hydrocarbons in the Arctic, the Gulf and the Appalachians. In this game of wars and alliances that blends politicians and industrialists, national oil companies stand out. They carry out, as either operators or regulators, the production of domestic hydrocarbons on behalf of their nations and for the sake of future generations. Many arose out of nationalization movements prior to the first oil shock of 1973. Today, they represent 75 percent of global production, and they control about 90 percent of global reserves. They sustain national industrial agendas and maintain, thanks to the diversity of their activities, the largest employment areas in their economies.