Chinese producer usurps Exxon
NEW YORK -- A big shift is happening in Big Oil: An American giant now ranks behind a Chinese upstart.
Exxon Mobil is no longer the world's biggest publicly traded producer of oil. For the first time, that distinction belongs to a 13-year-old Chinese company called PetroChina. The Beijing company was created by the Chinese government to secure more oil for that nation's booming economy.
PetroChina announced on Thursday that it pumped 2.4 million barrels a day last year, surpassing Exxon by 100,000. The company has grown rapidly during the past decade by squeezing more from China's aging oil fields and outspending Western companies to acquire more petroleum reserves in places like Canada, Iraq and Qatar. It's motivated by a need to lock up as much oil as possible.
The company's output increased 3.3 percent in 2011, while Exxon's fell 5 percent. Exxon's oil production also fell behind Rosneft, the Russian energy company.
PetroChina's rise highlights a fundamental difference in how the largest petroleum companies plan to supply the world as new deposits become tougher to find and more expensive to produce.
Every major oil company has aggressively pursued new finds to replace their current wells. But analysts say Western oil firms like Exxon Mobil have been more conservative than the Chinese, mindful of their bottom line and investor returns. With oil prices up 19 percent in 2011, they still made money without increasing production.
PetroChina Co. Ltd. has a different mission. The Chinese government owns 86 percent of its stock, and the nation uses nearly every drop of oil PetroChina pumps. Its appetite for gasoline and other petroleum products is projected to double between 2010 and 2035.
"There's a lot of anxiety in China about the energy question," said energy historian Dan Yergin. "It's just growing so fast."
While PetroChina sits atop other publicly traded companies in oil production, it falls well short of national oil companies like Saudi Aramco, which produces nearly 8 million barrels a day. And Exxon is still the biggest publicly traded energy company when counting combined output of oil and natural gas. PetroChina ranks third behind Exxon and BP in total output of oil and natural gas.
PetroChina is looking to build on its momentum in 2012.
"We must push ahead," PetroChina Chairman Jiang Jiemin said in January.
PetroChina has grown by pumping everything it can from reserves in China, estimated to contain more than 6.5 billion barrels. It drilled thousands of oil wells across vast stretches of the nation's northern grasslands. Some of those fields are ancient by industry standards, dating close to the beginning of China's communist government in the 1950s.
The commitment to aging fields distinguishes PetroChina from its biggest Western rivals. Exxon and other major oil companies typically sell their aging, low-performing fields or they put them out of commission.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ex-Steelers QB Batch creates sports medicine startup at Pitt
- Former Steelers LB Haggans to do time in Westmoreland jail
- Crosby understands rule prohibiting him from playing, stresses he is hurt
- Pitt adds Texas wide receiver as 16th commitment to Class of 2015
- WVU frat pledge had fatal blood alcohol level more than 6 times legal limit
- Supporters optimistic about passage of medical marijuana
- Allegheny County assistant public defender charged for allegedly lying to court staff
- Pittsburgh cracks down on overcrowded houses
- LeBeau won’t join Cardinals coaching staff
- Officials dissent on whether offices can prohibit, charge to photograph public record documents
- Owner of Italian Village Pizza stores gets house arrest for tax evasion