Industry Outlook Report Different Oil Industries for Different Futures
Issue 4, 1998
Utilities & alternative energy

Many oil and gas companies are highly focused on the next five years. They see challenges in another period of relatively low commodity prices and opportunities in the opening of previously closed countries and in the worldwide restructuring of the regulated natural gas and electricity businesses. However, some companies recognize that they are now making investments in businesses that will still be operating 30 years from now. After all, the initial discoveries of the North Sea and Alaska North Slope were made in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Middle East oil prices were around $1.25 per barrel. At that time, several companies invested in residual fuel oil desulfurization to meet growing power generation needs, and Shell and Gulf Oil had an emerging business in nuclear energy. Soon thereafter, many oil companies diversified into the coal and metals industries. Few people at that time envisaged the imminence of nationalization, the massive reduction of residual fuel oil markets, the difficulty in managing a diversified portfolio, or the travails of the nuclear business. Nor did they fully anticipate the huge potential of the North Sea and the North Slope.