Finally, some good news! Exxon Mobil Corp. announced at an annual briefing for investment analysts at the New York Stock Exchange that it has plans to invest at record levels – between $25 billion and $30 billion annually over the next five years – to meet expected long-term growth in world energy demand. “The global economy is currently experiencing a downturn, but at ExxonMobil we are focused on the long term,” said Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO. Tillerson outlined ExxonMobil’s major achievements in 2008 and plans for the future. Highlights include: · Production started at eight major projects in 2008, which at their peak are expected to add the net equivalent of 260,000 b/d to the company’s production. A further nine major projects are expected to begin production in 2009. At their peak, the fields coming onstream this year are expected to add the net equivalent of an additional 485,000 b/d to production. · For the 15th consecutive year, the company replaced more than 100% of production through proved reserves additions in 2008. ExxonMobil’s net exploration acreage has been increased by about 40% since 2003. · In the downstream sector, the company is progressing plans to invest more than $1 billion in lower-sulfur diesel projects at three refineries in the US and Europe. Once complete in 2010, these projects will allow an increase in lower-sulfur diesel production of 140,000 b/d. “Our commitment to developing advanced technology, our industry-leading operational and project-management capabilities and exceptional employees continue to position the company as the partner of choice for resource owners around the world,” Tillerson said. “ExxonMobil is strong, resilient, and well positioned for the future.” Chevron Corp. also announced good news this week, stating the company is well positioned to deal with difficult market conditions. Chevron attributes its position to a strong balance sheet, numerous new growth projects coming onstream, and a disciplined approach to cost management. “We are continuing to execute our key strategies,” Dave O’Reilly, chairman and CEO, announced at the annual meeting with financial analysts in New York. “We’re moving legacy projects to development, we’re moving resources to reserves, and we’re continuing to deliver our industry-leading exploration program. In the downstream, we’re continuing our program to improve reliability and feedstock flexibility, and we are sharply focused on reducing costs.” The company is basing its current plans on a belief that global energy demand will rise as economic growth resumes. “Shorter term, our portfolio is relatively less exposed to sectors that are most sensitive to an economic downturn,” O’Reilly said. George Kirkland, executive vice president of upstream and gas, recapped the strong 2008 performance of the upstream and natural gas business, which had record earnings with nine major capital projects completed. Kirkland also provided details on how the industry-leading queue of Chevron’s major capital projects will deliver significant growth and provide flexibility in the current economic environment. “Over the next two years, we expect new project startups and continued ramp-ups to contribute production of 650,000 b/d.” Future growth, Kirkland said, will focus on the company’s LNG portfolio, particularly Gorgon and Wheatstone in Australia, as well as the crude oil opportunities in the Lower Tertiary trend in the deepwater US Gulf of Mexico (GoM). Kirkland also discussed development plans for Chevron’s high-profile Jack and St. Malo discoveries in the Lower Tertiary trend in the GoM. The company has begun front-end engineering and design for a production facility that will have a capacity of between 120,000 and 150,000 boe/d. The facility will co-develop Jack and St. Malo, which have combined recoverable resources in excess of 500 MMbbl. Pat Yarrington, CFO, outlined the company’s financial priorities. “We plan to sustain and grow our dividend and to maintain our financial strength and flexibility throughout the commodity price cycle,” she said, emphasizing the company’s strong track record of balancing current performance with future earnings growth. So at least a couple of the supermajors see a light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s hope we can take that optimism to the bank.