As the world looks toward an energy future that is less reliant on fossil fuels, governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region must adapt. The petroleum sector is a major employer in the region, the primary source of fiscal revenue, the dominant generator of exports and the source of energy that powers economies. With the pace of energy transition uncertain, a growing number of oil companies are revising downward their long-term assumptions about fossil fuel consumption and prices, and private capital has been progressively moving away from the sector. This transition creates opportunities for cleaner and more reliable energy for citizens in the MENA, a region rich in renewable energy potential.
MENA governments and their national oil companies (NOCs) recognize the need for adaptation. Several countries have launched vision statements or reform plans aimed at diversifying NOC portfolios, increasing efficiency and reducing their exposure to market decline.
This briefing derives from in-depth research and interviews on the challenges and reform plans of three MENA NOCs (Saudi Aramco, Qatar Petroleum and Algeria’s Sonatrach) and draws out implications for other NOCs in the region. The authors seek to inform the strategies of governments and NOCs on how to manage NOC portfolios and the evolution of state-NOC accountability mechanisms and hope that nongovernmental analysts and civil society organizations will use this briefing as a tool to help understand and scrutinize public reform plans.
The global push to transition to cleaner energy sources poses a challenge in many Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries, which depend upon high oil prices to balance budgets and fund social services.
National oil companies (NOCs) must adapt their strategies to help their economies become more resilient in the context of global energy transition.
Several prominent MENA NOCs control large, undeveloped reserves with low production costs. These companies have several strategic options available. By contrast, MENA NOCs with small proven reserves or whose remaining reserves will be more expensive to develop face more severe challenges. They may struggle to profit from new projects or spread their risk across a more diverse portfolio.
With rising uncertainty and the prospect of long-term price decline, MENA NOCs and their governments must pay more attention to corporate governance and clear public communication, in order to enhance efficiency and clarify expectations of the political and economic roles that NOCs play.