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Julian Lee

Think Big Oil Makes Its Cash Pumping Crude? Not Anymore.

Trading profits saved Europe’s oil majors from the full impact of the pandemic. But they shouldn’t get too comfortable with this safety net. 

Trading profits won’t rescue oil companies in the long term.

Trading profits won’t rescue oil companies in the long term.

Source: Bloomberg

Trading saved European Big Oil from the full impact of this year’s oil crisis. It’s not the first time that massive profits from in-house trading desks ameliorated poor operating results from the core business of finding and producing hydrocarbons — and it won’t be the last. But the companies may struggle to carry this safety net into the era of decarbonization.

As my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Chris Hughes wrote this week, Royal Dutch Shell Plc proved it could make a profit even amid the carnage of the oil market in the April-June quarter. The slump in oil and gas production — down 7% year on year and 11% quarter on quarter — and collapse in prices was offset by aggressive cost and capital-expenditure reductions, plus a “very strong” trading result.