Saudi Aramco, an oil giant almost entirely owned by the government of Saudi Arabia, announced Sunday that it brought in a staggering $161.1 billion in profits last year as it joined other fossil fuel companies in capitalizing on energy market turmoil sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The company's profit figure for 2022 is the largest ever recorded by an oil corporation. Amin Nasser, Aramco's CEO, declared on an earnings call that "this is probably the highest net income ever recorded in the corporate world."
For comparison, ExxonMobil—the second-largest oil company in the world behind Aramco—reported $56 billion in net income last year, a record for the U.S. firm but nowhere close to the Saudi corporation's haul.
"It is shocking for a company to make a profit of more than $161.1 billion in a single year through the sale of fossil fuel—the single largest driver of the climate crisis," Agnès Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said in a statement. "It is all the more shocking because this surplus was amassed during a global cost-of-living crisis and aided by the increase in energy prices resulting from Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine."
Aramco said its banner profits—driven by "stronger crude oil prices, higher volumes sold, and improved margins for refined products"—were up nearly 47% compared to 2021, a windfall the company has used to reward investors.
"Aramco declared a dividend of $19.5 billion for the fourth quarter, to be paid in Q1 2023," the oil firm said in a press release. "This represents a 4.0% increase compared to the previous quarter, aligned with the company's dividend policy aiming to deliver a sustainable and progressive dividend. Additionally, the Board of Directors also recommended the distribution of bonus shares to eligible shareholders in the amount of one share for every 10 shares held."
While Aramco said it intends to devote resources to "lower-carbon technologies" and carbon-capture initiatives that climate campaigners have dismissed as false solutions, the company made clear that it has no intention of shifting aggressively away from fossil fuel production—a transition scientists say is necessary to avert climate catastrophe.
In its earnings announcement, Aramco said it is committed to "expanding oil, gas, and chemicals production."
Saudi Arabia is the second-largest oil producer in the world behind the United States. Late last year, the Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to slash oil production by 2 million barrels a day in a bid to keep prices high—benefiting companies like Aramco, Exxon, and other fossil fuel majors that have posted record-shattering 2022 profits as households struggle to heat their homes.
"It is past time that Saudi Arabia acted in humanity's interest and supported the phasing out of the fossil fuel industry, which is essential for preventing further climate harm," Callamard said Sunday. "These extraordinary profits, and any future income derived from Aramco, should not be deployed to finance human rights abuses, cover them up, or try and gloss over them."
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams and was authored by Jake Johnson.