That gave scope for a substantial expansion in production in north-west Europe, Africa and Latin America. Technological progress, not least in the offshore sector, also made it possible to recover more and more oil at a lower cost.
A number of factors combined in 1998 to create overproduction and fatally low oil prices. The slump in demand was closely related to the economic crisis which hit Asia that year. An unusually mild winter in Europe, Japan and North America during 1997-98 also affected the oil industry by reducing consumption of heating oil. And Iraqi crude returned to the market through the UN’s oil-for-food programme. The result was that oil prices fell to well below USD 10 per barrel, lower than in 1986. Most experts agreed that these low prices were set to be a lasting phenomenon. It did not take long for the oil companies to respond by downsizing their workforces. Other measures included a series of acquisitions and mergers between the international oil majors, which reduced their number and made the survivors bigger. Exxon and Mobil joined forces in ExxonMobil, BP and Amoco became BP. Shell acquired Enterprise Oil, and Texaco merged with Chevron.
In this process, Total ended up as the world’s fourth larges oil company in 2000. The first step was a merger between Total and Belgium’s Petrofina in 1999 to create TotalFina. This company then acquired Elf Aquitaine in 2000. Its name was changed to TotalFinaElf, and then back to Total in 2003.
The formal integration process was completed in Norway on 18 December 2001 by merging TotalFinaElf Exploration AS and Total Norge A.S. Total E&P Norge AS became the official name of the merged company in Norway.Lille-Frigg shut inFrigg Pipeline becomes part of Vesterled