University of Texas at Austin

Upstream Attainment

Our History and Approach

CEE research on upstream matters is based on our global experience with capacity building and technical assistance via international grants. Starting with the former Soviet republics in the late 1990s, we have worked in many countries including Bangladesh, Ghana, Uganda, India, and Mexico where upstream reforms were taking place or new resources were discovered. Often the national oil companies (NOCs), if they existed, did not have the resources and experience to develop oil and gas resources efficiently in a globally competitive industry. Often government policies interfered with establishment of sustainable commercial frameworks that would attract investment. After the emergence of tight rock plays, we also started analyzing North American operators. The central thread of our research has been the ability of NOCs and producers in the U.S. to sustain resource development in a financially viable and sustainable manner within the context of commercial frameworks, to which they are subject.

National Oil Companies

Since the early 2000s, CEE researchers have maintained strong research and capacity building collaborations with national oil companies (NOCs). In 2007, CEE formalized an ongoing NOC research effort and placed a working paper into the public domain, "Commercial Frameworks for National Oil Companies."


In 2008, CEE cooperated with the World Bank to help establish a comprehensive NOC database and research program (press release). "A Citizen's Guide to National Oil Companies" is part of a larger effort to improve understanding of these organizations and the role each plays within its country's economic development trajectory. Part A - Technical Report & Part B - Data Directory

The Study on NOCs and Value Creation, launched by the World Bank, analyzes the factors that explain the creation of value, and test their relative importance on the basis of the experience of a selected group of NOCs. The objective of the Study, which was completed in 2010, is to improve the awareness of the relative effectiveness and suitability of alternative policies for the management and oversight of the petroleum sector, with particular reference to role and functioning of NOCs. Some of the highlights of this research can be found in this research note.

We continue to track NOCs. For example, we released two snapshots in 2015:

Fiscal Reforms Needed by Host Governments of NOCs (March 2015)
Full Cycle Costs for NOCs (October 2015)
NOC Upstream Cost Structures and Implications of Lower Oil Prices (January 2013)

North American Producers

To better understand upstream economics in the U.S., we benchmark a sample of producers with large domestic positions.  Our sample represents the top tier of U.S. producers including leading shale players from 2009. We provide an annual update and adjust the group of companies to accommodate any changes in company production and M&A activity. Our metrics, among others, include resource additions versus capital expenditures, full-cycle cost stacks, and cash flow waterfall. Our most recent update demonstrates the continuing impact of lower oil and gas prices. As a group, our sample companies remained cash flow negative.

CEE CF waterfall