VSIt was exactly on March 4, 1938 that hell turned into paradise, sand into gold. At least for the Saud family, which reigns supreme in Riyadh. From the Dammam No. 7 well, on the coast of the Persian Gulf, oil sprang for the first time. Today, the former Arabian American Oil Company, which became Aramco and nationalized in 1980, is the most profitable company in the world.
In 2022, it earned nearly 161 billion dollars (150.3 billion euros) in profits. While in the West we are worried about the superprofits of the American or European oil majors, the Saudi national company has made more profits than the world’s top five combined: ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, TotalEnergies and BP (151 billion dollars in total ).
This dizzying result is, of course, due to the surge in oil prices, which approached 120 dollars per barrel in June 2022, in conjunction with the post-Covid-19 economic recovery and the war in Ukraine. The fall in production in Russia but also in many other producing countries, such as Nigeria, has benefited the kingdom which, on the contrary, is increasing its investments.
These reached 37 billion dollars in 2022 and should exceed 45 billion in 2023. Also, when the OPEC quota tap opens a little more, this primarily benefits the kingdom of Saud. The country, which has promised carbon neutrality for 2060, intends to be the last oil tanker standing when the time comes for black gold to retire.
He also needs it to prepare for this future without fossil fuels. Oil is essential to the country’s budget and the spectacular revenues allow it to develop the pharaonic projects of Prince Ben Salman. Like the city of Neom, postmodern Babylon on the shores of the Red Sea and equipped with all the urban technologies. A $500 billion investment.
But also to develop more prosaic industries, such as petrochemicals or hydrogen production. And, of course, carbon capture has become the ultimate lifeline for all world tankers against the coming tsunami of the fight against global warming.
Saudi Arabia, and its 30 million inhabitants, dreams of being a theocratic empire at the center of a new geopolitics, freed from American tutelage, even getting closer to its Iranian enemy with Chinese help. Almost a century after the first well in Dammam, oil is reshaping the world, again.