Oil Companies Vow To Maintain Exploration Efforts

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"Keep investing through the cycle. . .to maintain operating stability when the economy recovers."

Oil companies must resist slashing exploration and development activities during the economic downturn if industry is going to meet projected long-term energy demand, chief executives said Feb. 10 during an energy conference in Houston.

Various speakers at the Cambridge Energy Research Associates annual conference said their current business strategy involves avoiding the mistakes of past downturns. They referred to the 1980s when industry cut budgets and drilling activity to the point that consumers faced tight oil and gas supply after the economy recovered.

Jeroen Van der Veer, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, said Shell believes it's important to keep investing in projects and to retain its workers rather than to make sweeping layoffs such as the industry in general experienced during the 1980s.

"Keep investing through the cycle," Van der Veer said. "Keep your professional base, your people" to maintain operating stability when the economy recovers. He said he remains convinced that the industry faces strong long-term fundamentals.

"I think international oil companies are very well placed," Van der Veer said in response to a question about how international oil companies (IOCs) will respond to a growing emphasis about lowering carbon emissions by using clean-burning natural gas.

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