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A Comparative History of National Oil Companies


Edited By Alain Beltran

Oil is undoubtedly rather more than a mere hydrocarbon. It is a development factor, an essential element in energy balances, a strategic weapon, a resource characterized by unequal distribution, and also by unequal consumption. For more than a century now, it has showed its importance, whether during periods of crisis, or at times of strong growth.
Under such circumstances, few countries have allowed mere market laws to operate freely. Whether visible or discreet, the hand of the State has been present in many cases, depending on different purposes and taking various forms. Hence national companies developed, if only in order to deal with the Majors and their greatly feared power. One finds examples of national companies both in Western Europe and in certain developing countries that have substantial resources on their soil. Those companies did not all experience the same destiny, but they have sometimes influenced the rules of the oil game.
The colloquium held in Paris in 2003 («National oil companies: history, characteristics, comparisons from the inter-war period to the end of the 20 th century») provided some new facts and viewpoints in connection with this history, still relatively unknown.
You will read contributions here from various horizons making it possible to illuminate the present and the near future, since oil industry issues continue to challenge the world.


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PART III OIL AND NATURAL GAS EXPLOITATION: CASE STUDIES 199 Pechelbronn from 1918 to 1962, or Constitution of a National Oil Company Based on a Local Deposit René WALTHER University of Strasbourg, France In the second half of the 19th century, Joseph Achille Le Bel con- verted the extraction and refining of oil at Pechelbronn, in Alsace, from a small-scale operation to an industrial one1. After Germany’s annexa- tion of the province in 1871, he emphasised his Paris connections and sold the business in 1888 to Francophile Alsatian industrialists grouped within a corporation. The business escaped the regional bourgeoisie in 1906, when the Deutsche Erdöl Aktiengesellschaft (DEA) acquired all of the oil concessions in Basse-Alsace. The DEA then controlled, in addition to the Vereinte Pechelbronner Ölbergwerke, wells in Hanover, Romania and Galicia, and a distribution network covering central Europe. Within the konzern, Pechelbronn was the stable element ena- bling the company to run elsewhere the risks that were necessary for its expansion. The DEA’s ambition was to become the continent’s great oil company, but that objective was annihilated by the defeat in 1918. The Berlin firm lost Pechelbronn and all of the deposits located outside the German borders. The Alsatian operation was suddenly removed from its Germanic environment and, in spite of its modest size, the deposit became the leading French oil field. What was Pechelbronn oil’s posi- tion thenceforth in the French context? Between the time of the Armi- stice and 1918, the regional foundations of the business...

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