Despite a possibly cockamamie announcement by OPEC on Wednesday that Venezuela's oil riches increased enough in 2010 to make it the world's leader in reserves, it's not likely that the country will soon surpass Saudi Arabia as the planet's top producer. Thus, it'd be wise for Fools to consider some of the companies that stand to benefit from assisting the Saudis with their oil production, along with attending to other needs in the kingdom.
That's not to indicate that those working within OPEC's kingpin won't have their share of challenges. For some time now, warning flags have been raised about Saudi oil being less abundant than generally thought. For instance, that was the theme of the late Matthew R. Simmons' 2005 book, Twilight in the Desert. And more recently, claims have been made that a hike this year in the number of rigs working in the kingdom was intended to maintain prior production, rather than to increase daily output.
Keeping the kingdom calm
You likely know about today's strained geopolitical climate near the Persian Gulf. In February, a longtime Wall Street Journal reporter predicted that, "unless the (royal family) rapidly and radically reforms itself -- or is pushed to do so by the U.S. -- it will remain vulnerable to upheaval."
While I've become progressively more concerned about the possibility of hostilities between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a report this week from respected geopolitical intelligence firm Austin-based Stratfor posited a wild array of possibilities for the Gulf area, including a U.S. deal with Iran that leaves Saudi Arabia "in the lurch." Conversely, the firm recently discovered through its sources "that the pieces were beginning to fall into place for Saudi-Iranian negotiations." It's tough to predict where such a seemingly preposterous circumstance would leave the U.S. and, by extension, most of the oil-consuming West.
Only one left standing
But the world has never been devoid of strange and shifting alliances, so let's look at several companies that are already embedded in Saudi Arabia and thereby might be solid additions to your portfolios. Let's start with Chevron
As I've told Fools previously, however, its lot in the kingdom is hardly an easy one. It's tasked with producing crude by deploying its respected technological skills in a desolate desert area between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait -- known as the Partitioned Zone -- that is owned by both countries.
If that sounds easy, recognize that it's working in the Wafra field, which contains heavy crude with the consistency of molasses. And so it falls to the California company to spend about $340 million to develop the technology, beyond the injection of 600-degree steam into the well, that will bring the crude readily to the surface.
The gorilla's new home
While Chevron is the veritable Lone Ranger among upstream operators in Saudi Arabia, the passel of services companies with shingles hanging in the kingdom demonstrates the willingness of many state-owned oil companies -- Mexico's Pemex is but one example -- to work hand-in-glove with services providers, while keeping operators at arm's length. The result is an increased geographic range for those on the services side, indicating just one reason why I'm inclined to nudge Fools toward that portion of the industry, given today's topsy-turvy world.
Precisely a year ago, Schlumberger
Despite Saudi Arabia's vast riches, abundant oil, and a gross domestic product that grew by 6.9% in the 12 months through April, the overheated country fights to maintain sufficient power generation capacity. Just this week, Zurich-based power and automation technologies provider ABB
Metaling with the Saudis
The area's political volatility notwithstanding, a building boom is sweeping across the Middle East and leading to shortages of aluminum, amid escalating demand and insufficient manufacturing capacity. Fortunately for the kingdom, it's blessed with large supplies of alumina, the key ingredient in the production of the metal. As such, Fools should know that Pittsburgh-based aluminum giant Alcoa
Last, but hardly least, U.S.-based Dow Chemical
Unless the world changes dramatically, there are several companies beyond the likes of Chevron, Schlumberger, and the others discussed above that stand to benefit from relationships with the Saudis. My suggestion is to do your research, pick those that most successfully float your boat, and let The Motley Fool's free My Watchlist tool help you keep close tabs on your favorites.
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We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the above-mentioned companies. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.