Walking the tightrope—vigilance required to keep moving forward in 2020
As we, once again, move from one year to the next, how do we assess the oil and gas and chemical sectors’ performance in 2019 and its prospects for 2020? As always, there are headwinds and tailwinds, risks and opportunities, uncertainties and foreseeable trends, but in this report we aim to take stock of the main factors to watch for in 2020 across the diverse oil, gas, and chemical industry. Over the past decade, we have seen the heights of bullish optimism and seemingly limitless investment during the years of the $100 per barrel world, from 2011 to mid-2014, and the lows of the price crash and extended oil downturn, from mid-2014 to 2017. Neither extreme seems in the cards for an imminent return as the industry has learned valuable lessons from both episodes, but uncertainties are clearly still a challenge to performance and investment.
As we evaluate the most prominent trends and issues for the oil and gas and chemical sectors in this outlook, executives in these businesses seem keenly aware of wider macroeconomic and business environmental risks, which seem to be gaining strength. Among these are:
- Weakening economic growth, not only in the United States but also in Europe and China;
- Ongoing, perhaps intensifying, trade tensions, which can create uncertainty, dampen growth, and lead to modifications in long-established supply chains; and
- The many political risks, of course, including the US election cycle, the outcome of the Brexit process in Europe, and tensions in the Middle East between multiple states and non-state actors with different objectives.
And, while walking the tightrope across these shifting sands in 2020, fundamental changes in the long-term business environment could become more salient. So, attention to the coming disruptive forces associated with this century’s energy transition and sustainability imperatives is increasingly crucial alongside day-to-day positioning.