Gatecrashers

Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden and his BP counterpart, Bob Dudley, were the star guests at the Offshore Europe conference in Aberdeen yesterday. To the surprise of no one, they used their keynote addresses in the spiritual home of the UK’s oil and gas industry to reaffirm their companies’ commitments to the North Sea.

This has become somewhat of a ritual for the European majors since oil prices began their sharp descent three years ago. Ironically, the chief executive best placed to offer soothing words was nowhere to be seen. Total boss Patrick Pouyanne would have cut a more reassuring figure on stage, given his firm’s surprise $7.45bn deal to buy Denmark’s Maersk Oil last month.

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Makers vs Takers

“We are a price taker. We are not a price maker, unfortunately. So, as we have just re-discovered, if you are not a price maker but a price taker, your job is to control breakeven,” Total chief executive Patrick Pouyanne told the World Petroleum Congress (WPC) this week.

He was referring to the past three years when oil and gas companies (aka price takers) have had no other choice but to introduce very strict financial discipline, boost the efficiency of their operations, defer or cancel quite a few development projects and in general learn again how to survive and thrive in a lower oil price environment.

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Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea

Tanker owners are looking to rejuvenate their fleets.  Nothing new, I hear you say, ordering new ships is what owners do.

But talk of a nascent consolidation in the sector suggested things could be different this time around. Shipowners with strong enough balance sheets could be looking at other ways to expand, rather than ordering new vessels and adding to an oversupplied market.

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