• Mergers between oil and gas majors in the air, though higher oil prices providing some relief

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

The Financial Times has looked at the prospect of mergers between large players in the oil and gas industry, comparing currently challenges to conditions that precipitated mergers in the past. Huge losses in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – US$50 billion (€41 billion) together by ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell, for instance – led to rumours of potential mergers, such as one between ExxonMobil and Chevron (which could have meant output larger than any Opec country other than Saudi Arabia). Exxon chief executive has publicly said that the company is on the lookout for deals and companies that could help grow “unique value” and complement its existing operations, and presumably it is not alone. Some industry insiders and analysts quoted by the FT regard such mergers as sensible, saying that scale “is a real enabler of cost efficiency”, and suggesting that they may even free up capital for spending on transitioning to other forms of energy. Higher oil prices in the last few weeks, however, in the region of US$60/barrel have eased pressures on producers in the short-term, but the experience of the last year will surely weigh on the minds of executives. There is also talk that mergers and acquisitions may not necessarily be of other oil and gas companies (though in the oil shale sector this will probably occur), but of other energy companies or utilities, with a pathway from ‘big oil’ to ‘big energy’. For any large merger, of course, major hurdles would need to be overcome, with anti-competition regulations being one of them.