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商业 - 能源

英国石油重启钻井作业,石油巨头金刚不败

Shelley DuBois 2011年10月31日

石油巨头们的犯错门槛如此之高,一如市场对能源的需求,因此很难想象,到底得犯下多大的错误,它们才会真正受到惩罚。

石油和海湾之外的故事

    深海区域只是BP庞大的全球资产的一小部分。尽管犯下这么多错误,这家公司还是很难(如果不是毫无可能的话)就此倒下。任何一家石油公司都是这样,它们不会觉得未来堪忧,原因在于,哪怕它们必须努力找油,但石油这种商品不但利润极其丰厚,而且需求量还在日益增长。能源管理协会(Energy Administration Association)发布的《国际能源展望》预计,2008年到2035年期间,全球能源消耗量将增长约53%。尽管可再生能源将是未来燃料组合中增长最快的组成部分,但石化燃料仍将占据主流。

    现在看起来,任何一家手握足够石油资源的公司都有资本承担上百万加仑的原油泄露,其后果虽然会一时让它寝食不安,却不会置其于死地,哪怕这家公司正置身于世界上行情最为跌宕起伏的市场。

    实际上,巨型的多业态石油公司对市场动荡应付自如。油价低伏时,勘探和生产就变得昂贵,但这些公司却能依靠加油站这类零售资产获得高额利润。油价高企时,勘探和生产部门就成为赚钱的主力军。目前,油价高企可谓旷日持久,因此康菲石油公司(ConocoPhillips)正打算2012年剥离其精炼部门,转而专事石油勘探和生产。

眼不见,心不烦

    尽管此次漏油事故已让BP安全记录中的漏洞暴露无遗,但其财务表现已经重归稳定,此外,一度围绕着它的负面报道也已逐渐平息。虽然泄露的原油价值超过500万桶,但流入海湾的原油进入的是一个虽遭破坏,却富含嗜油细菌的生态环境。没有被化学分解剂或微生物分解的石油会沉到洋底,从公众视线中完全消失。

    BP新任首席执行官鲍勃•达德利称,公司已经修正了发展路线。只有时间能告诉我们他所说的是否属实。然而,石油巨头们总能摇身一变、恢复元气。埃克森石油公司就是个很好的例子。还记得埃克森瓦尔迪兹号(Exxon Valdez)漏油事件吗?当时,一位醉醺醺的埃克森油轮船长驾船搁浅,将1,100万加仑石油倾入阿拉斯加原本处于原始状态的威廉王子湾(Prince William Sound)。这一事故令人厌恶,不可原谅。但是此后不久,埃克森石油又重振旗鼓了。

    表面上,埃克森石油在媒体面前对此事故表现得冷淡自负。但在公司内部,它其实已开始着手实施改进,现在,该公司拥有的部分安全标准堪称业内最高水准。或许BP会效仿这家公司的做法。鉴于它之前犯下这样的大错,其纠错进度理应受到密切监督。

    不过,石油巨头犯错的门槛如此之高,因此,很难想象,到底得是多大的错误才会导致它们其中的某一家轰然倒下。

    译者:清远

Beyond petroleum, beyond the Gulf

    Deepwater is only one slice of BP's plentiful global assets. As many mistakes as it has made, the company is very difficult, if not impossible, to kill. Any oil company would be, because even though they must work harder for their oil, the commodity is both extremely profitable and in increasingly greater demand. The Energy Administration Association's international energy outlook predicts that global energy consumption will jump by about 53% between 2008 and 2035. While renewable sources of energy will make up the fastest-growing segment of the fuel mix in the future, fossil fuels will remain the dominant source.

    It seems like any company with its hands on enough petroleum can afford to spill millions of gallons of crude with upsetting, but nonfatal, corporate consequences, even if that company is playing in one of the world's most volatile markets.

    In fact, huge, integrated oil companies can adjust to the volatility in the market. When the price of oil is low, exploration and production is expensive, but companies can rely on retail assets such as gas stations to benefit from the high profit margins at the pump. When the price of oil is high, then the exploration and production arms become the main moneymakers. The price of oil has been so high for so long that ConocoPhillips is planning to spin off its refining arm in 2012 and focus only on exploration and production.

Out of sight, out of mind

    Financial stability aside, the flurry of bad press around BP has died down, despite the skeletons in its safety record that the spill revealed. Though there was over 5 million barrels worth, the oil that spilled in the Gulf entered an ecosystem that, though damaged, is full of petroleum-consuming bacteria. The oil that wasn't dissolved by chemical dispersants or microbes fell to the bottom of the ocean, out of sight to the public.

    BP's new CEO Bob Dudley says the company has righted its course. Only time will tell, but Big Oil is capable of change. Exxon is a good example. Remember the Exxon Valdez? A drunk Exxon oil tanker captain ran the ship aground, spilling 11 million gallons of oil in Alaska's formerly pristine Prince William Sound. It was ugly and inexcusable. But then, Exxon restructured itself.

    Outwardly, the oil giant was stand-offish to the press about the incident. But it made internal changes, and the company now has some of the highest safety standards in the industry. Perhaps BP will follow suit. It's progress should be carefully watched, after such a big mistake.

    But the bar for mistakes at Big Oil companies is so high, it's hard to imagine how big an error would have to be to actually take one of them down.

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