The role of national oil companies (NOC) is changing rapidly and the collaboration that takes place among NOCs, international oil companies (IOC) and service companies is "in flux," said Amy Myers Jaffe, who leads the Baker Institute Energy Forum at Rice University in Houston.

NOCs control about 77% of world oil reserves, Jaffe said, and according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), $2.2 trillion will be needed over the next 30 years to meet the world's rising demand for oil and natural gas. Also, between 2000 and 2030, 90% of new energy is projected to come from "transitioning" countries. Read: NOCs will have the majority of the world's energy future in their hands.

Unlike their commercial counterparts among the IOCs and oil patch service providers, NOCs have a broader constituency to serve with a greater diversity of interests, Jaffe said. While IOCs are primarily concerned with return on equity to their shareholders. NOCs have myriad other concerns, not all of which align with the commercial interests of a large oil and gas producer. NOCs often are concerned with:

In a study of 15 NOCs, the Baker Institute found that the obligations and concerns of NOCs can affect their income, Jaffe said. She spoke last week at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston on a panel devoted to the topic of collaboration among NOCs, IOCs and service companies. Also speaking was Accenture's Mark Greene, who said his firm has also studied NOCs and their role in the larger industry

Greene said nine of the top 10 holders of oil and gas reserves worldwide are NOCs. He said these companies are increasingly capable of setting their own agendas independently of their home countries' governments. NOCs are expanding internationally at a rate not seen before. For instance, Malaysia's Petronas is active in 40 countries, and Russia's Gazprom is active in about 10. Chinese and Indian companies are particularly aggressive in their international expansion efforts, Greene said.

Historically, NOCs have relied on IOCs for access to technological innovations. However, increasingly, NOCs are contracting directly with service companies and bypassing IOCs. As NOCs mature and grow in power they do not necessarily have the same priorities, Greene said.

Bernard Duroc-Danner, CEO of service company Weatherford, concurred that the relationship that exists among IOCs, NOCs and companies such as has changed and continues to evolve. He said things have gotten "more interesting and more constructive all around.

"The entire supply chain is strained across the board. The supply-demand balance is comfortable but not as comfortable as it used to be."

NOCs understand the needs of service companies quite well, Duroc-Danner added. "They have stretched out a helping hand in all respects. It's very, very endearing of a change."

For instance, Duroc-Danner said NOCs have been instrumental in showing the ropes of doing business in their home countries to the service companies. As for IOCs, they are instrumental in helping to bring new technologies to market, he said.

While NOCs have been limited in developing technology in the past, that is changing, said Samir Passos Awad, Petrobras executive manager, Americas, Africa and Eurasia. He said Petrobras has been developing its own technology, as have other NOCs. "Right now, NOCs are much more capable of playing their own role in this three-way partnership." While IOCs have been more constant in their approach, NOCs have generally been more prepared to embrace innovation, he said.

Another change that has taken place is in the area of access to capital. In the "old world" it was the IOCs who contributed capital to energy projects, noted Syanga Abilio, vice president of Angola's Sonangol. "But today there is a lot of money in the investment community waiting for opportunity," he said.

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