Brief HistoryAbd al Aziz ibn Abd ar Rahman Al Saud, the first king of Saudi Arabia, had not gained control of the western part of the country when he granted the first oil concession in 1923. A British investment group, the Eastern and General Syndicate, was the recipient. The syndicate gambled on the possibility that it could sell the concession, but British petroleum companies showed no interest. The concession lapsed and was declared void in 1928.
Discovery of oil in several places around the Persian Gulf suggested that the peninsula contained petroleum deposits. Several major oil companies, however, were blocked from obtaining concessions there by what was known as the Red Line Agreement, which prohibited companies with part ownership of a company operating in Iraq from acting independently in a proscribed area that covered much of the Middle East. Standard Oil Company of California (Socal), which was not affected by the Red Line Agreement, gained a concession and found oil in Bahrain in 1932. Socal then sought a concession in Saudi Arabia that became effective in July 1933. Socal assigned its concession to its wholly owned operating subsidiary, California Arabian Standard Oil Company (CASOC). In 1936 Socal sold a part interest in CASOC to Texaco to gain marketing facilities for the crude discovered in its worldwide holdings. The name of the operating company in Saudi Arabia was changed to Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco) in January 1944. Two partners, Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (later renamed Exxon) and Socony-Vacuum (now Mobil Oil Company), were added in 1946 to gain investment capital and marketing outlets for the large reserves being discovered in Saudi Arabia. These four companies were the sole owners of Aramco until the early 1970s.
The original concession called for an annual rental fee of 5,000 British pounds (£) in gold or its equivalent until oil was discovered; a loan of £50,000 in gold to the Saudi government; a royalty payment of four shillings gold per net ton of crude production after the discovery of oil; and the free supply to the government of specific quantities of products from the refinery Aramco was to build after oil was discovered. (In 1933 the British pound was worth about US$4.87; there were twenty shillings to the British pound.) The company received exclusive rights to explore for, produce, and export oil, free of all Saudi taxes and duties, from most of the eastern part of Saudi Arabia for sixty years. The terms granted by the government were liberal, reflecting the king's need for funds, his low estimate of future oil production, and his weak bargaining position.