Gould: National oil companies benefiting from experience of service firms

HOUSTON — National oil companies have a savvy eye when it comes to the benefits of working with oil field service firms, a former Schlumberger executive told a Houston audience Thursday morning.

Companies like Brazil’s Petrobras and Mexico’s Pemex are leveraging the state-of-the-art technology that big service companies like Schlumberger can provide — and are benefiting handsomely from it, said Andrew Gould, chair of the BG Group and former CEO of Schlumberger, who spoke at the IIT 2013 Global Conference at the Hilton Americas.

National oil companies increasingly dominate ownership of the world’s largest oil and gas projects. In 2000, the state-owned firms controlled three of the world’s seven multibillion-dollar energy projects, with international companies — like Exxon Mobil and Chevron — responsible for the remainder, according to Gould. By 2012, that number had risen to 17 for national oil companies, far outpacing the seven projects undertaken by international companies.

The rise of state-owned companies like Statoil and Petrobras has generated a new market for service companies, who can offer innovation and technical expertise gained around the globe. While international companies often have their own internal resources for seismic and technical software, service companies are providing some of this expertise for national oil companies.

Halliburton and Schlumberger have, in turn, found their relationship with Pemex to be mutually beneficial, earning about $1 billion each for services provided in Mexico, according to a Barclay’s analyst.

Gould said that national oil companies that have shunned the expertise of service companies have missed out on important technology and knowledge, including the innovations of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

“Those who remain closed to the outside world fall seriously behind,” Gould said, noting that Russia had resisted working with oil field services companies for many years and was slow to benefit from the drilling advances adopted by the industry.

Gould oil and gas producers in the U.S. and Western Europe could benefit from the more collaborative model, allowing for more expertise on increasingly complex projects that the industry is attempting to take on.

“If the industry wants to progress, new ways of working together are essential,” Gould said. “It will not be easy — it goes against the traditional notions of the industry — but the performance and rising costs of production makes such relationships critical.”