Some of the world’s largest energy companies are saddled with their highest debt levels ever as they struggle with low crude oil prices, raising worries on their ability to pay dividends and find new barrels.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Exxon Mobil Corporation., Royal Dutch Shell PLC, BP PLC and Chevron Corporations hold a combined net debt of $184 billion—more than double their debt levels in 2014, when oil prices began a steep descent that eventually bottomed out at $27 a barrel earlier this year. Crude prices have rebounded since but still hover near $50 a barrel.

Aside from looking toward energy resources diversification to hopefully return the industry to profitability in the future, the oil giants are putting pressure on OPEC members to agree to some production freeze. In a related development, Iran has told members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that it will attend talks in late September on oil production, adding to hopes for an agreement to curb output.

Iran had circulated a letter to OPEC members, saying it would attend informal talks in Algeria late next month, according to an OPEC delegate who saw the one-sentence missive. Other delegates said high-level OPEC officials told them of Iran’s attendance.

Maureen Nzeogu
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