The petroleum service and supply industry

The petroleum service and supply industry comprises all companies providing oil and gas related services. These companies do the design and construction works which oil and gas companies need for oilfield development and production. Their work covers a wide range of activities, from carrying out seismic surveys to building refining plant or designing drilling equipment and tools. They are involved in well drilling, as well as in the design and production of platforms. They also supply oil companies with the personnel and equipment they lack because of the need to keep costs down. The petroleum service and supply sector is vast and nowadays includes some very familiar names: Schlumberger, Halliburton, CGGVeritas, Technip, Geoservices, TransoceanSedcoForex, etc.

Despite limited oil and gas reserves, the French petroleum service and supply sector has become well established in a relatively short period. Today its turnover, more than 90% of which is made abroad, puts it among the world’s leading exporters: it is ranked the 2nd largest exporter, equal with Norway and the United Kingdom. This remarkable performance has been achieved through the high level of technical expertise of French companies, sustained by ambitious research and development programmes.

The French position is also the result of other factors, especially the international role and position of Total and GDF Suez, the presence of two world renowned research institutes, IFP Energies nouvelles (New Energy) and IFREMER, as well as the existence of several large engineering companies and contractors such as Technip.

History of the oil and gas sector and the related service and supply industry in France

After the Second World War, the French government initiated an ambitious energy policy spearheaded by the Bureau de recherches du pétrole (BRP) (Oil Research Bureau). The result was the formation of three important operators: ELF, TOTAL and GAZ DE FRANCE. It also permitted the emergence of an innovative and competitive oil services industry which was soon able to develop technologies and processes for these operators.

The 1920s and 1930s
Several small national companies established to explore for oil in France and its colonies.
The 1928 Act, which established an effective oil industry charter. It allowed a French refining industry to develop.
Creation of the COMPAGNIE FRANÇAISE DES PÉTROLES (CFP) which became TOTAL after the Treaty of San Remo, in which France was mandated to manage part of oil production in the Middle East.

The 1940s
GAZ DE FRANCE established to develop a national gas distribution network.

The 1950s
Intensification of oil exploration in Africa, especially the Sahara.
TECHNIP established.
The GEP (Oil and Gas Suppliers’ Industry Association) formed on the initiative of members of the French Federation of Mechanical Engineering.

The 1960s
Start of offshore exploration and production in West Africa, Gabon and the North Sea.
Development of liquefied gas transport technologies.

The 1970s
Creation of a second national oil company, ELF Aquitaine (by a merger between ERAP and SNPA), which consolidated the French State’s participation in oil and gas exploration, production, refining and marketing.
Development of innovative technologies for oil and gas production in the difficult conditions of the North Sea.

The 1980s
Development of energy saving technologies and environmentally friendly products, particularly for downstream operations.
After the oil price collapse in 1986, a new challenge arose: to find and develop new oil and gas deposits at the lowest possible cost.

The 1990s
Development of technologies for deep offshore and discoveries of giant fields.