High oil prices : a non-OPEC capacity game
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- Working papers (SNF) 
The current high oil price is partly due to low investments in the oil industry the last decade. According to economic theory, exploration and development of new oil and gas fields should respond positively to increasing petroleum prices. But since the late 1990s, financial analysts have focused strongly on short-term accounting return measures, like RoACE, for benchmarking and valuation of international oil and gas companies. Consequently, the demand for strict capital discipline among oil and gas companies may have reduced their willingness to invest for future reserves and production growth. Thus, we have experienced an unusual combination of high oil prices and low investment levels in exploration and development. In many ways, the oil companies’ focus on RoACE, at the expense of reserve replacement, resembles an implicit co-ordination on low capacity among non-OPEC petroleum producers. This is a partial explanation of the current high oil prices. By examining actual parameters used by the financial markets in pricing of oil companies, we address the issue of whether the low investment outcome could represent a long-term equilibrium. This is hardly likely, as oil companies are made aware that stronger emphasis is put on reserve replacement.