Thunderbird Case

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Synopsis and Situational Context.
In 1948, natural gas was discovered in the Netherlands. In 1959 afield was found in the province of Groningen that was among the world’s largest known fields at the time. The Groningen field was discovered by NAM, a joint venture between Shell and Standard Oil (now ExxonMobil).  More gas was discovered in smaller on-shore fields and on the Dutch sector of the Continental Shelf in the North Sea. With the discovery of natural gas the Netherlands gained access to a new and reliable source of energy. By the end of 1963, the first Groningen gas was supplied to consumers and by 1968 all mainland Dutch municipalities had been connected to a national gas grid. The development of the Groningen field was the first stage in the creation of an integrated European natural gas industry.  The development of the Dutch gas industry provides insights into the long term development of a new energy industry and the roles played by the private sector and the state.

This case describes the commercial development of natural resources via public-private cooperation. The Dutch government has maintained control over the gas reserves and has used private company expertise and knowledge to create a viable and sustainable industry. The case can be used to illustrate how natural resources can be well managed and beneficial to national economic development. With a specific focus on oil and gas, the case can be used to explore integration across project development, gas production, market development, and government relations. The role of the Dutch government as regulator and marketer provides a basis for discussing government involvement in natural resource development. The case also illustrates the complexity of major gas projects involving multiple countries and markets.


12 pages