Usually when people think of the great oil cities of the world they think of Dallas, or Kuwait City, but not London – however London is one of the most important oil cities in the world. It has no drilling rigs on the urban fringes, but here is a metropolis that is absolutely central to the operation of the global oil & gas industry.
London holds one of the three main oil & gas commodity exchanges, here in our city’s International Petroleum Exchange, the global price of oil is set as traders pick up the market from Singapore, and respond to events, before handing on the market to traders in New York. Every working day millions of virtual barrels of the world’s most politically important commodity pass like a tornado through London.
There are three corporations which dominate the worlds oil industry, the three ‘Super Majors’, Exxon Mobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell. The latter two effectively have their home in London. For a century Shell had two HQ’s, one in London one in The Hague, and although since 2005 the head office is just in Holland, the company still has its feet firmly placed in both cities – London is the financial heart of their operations.
No other city in the world has such a concentration of Super-Majors, and with this comes a vast array of other institutions, companies, agencies and associations that collectively form the Carbon Web. The oil corporations come to this city not to extract oil and gas, as they do from the resource fields of Nigeria or Azerbaijan, but to extract three intangible resources equally important to their success: finance (link to new page) from the resource fields of the City of London and Canary Wharf, white collar labour from the fields of universities, and what is called ‘the social license to operate’ from the fields of public opinion, government policy and institutional relationships. Much of PLATFORM’s work is dedicated to the understanding and representation of this Carbon Web.
PLATFORM has been based in London for over two decades, and its projects have often focused on how this city can become more ecologically and socially just. Our work on oil is no exception. London consumes more energy than Denmark or Greece, but as host to the global oil & gas industry it also has a major indirect impact on the climate. Our sister organisation SEA/RENUE is dedicated to the practical installation of sustainable energy systems in London. We see our work on the oil industry as a counterbalance to this – with both streams driving towards the evolution of a post-fossil fuel metropolis, a city beyond oil.