The current landscape gradually took shape in the years following the first oil crisis in 1973, when the decision by producing countries to reassert their sovereignty over their natural resources led to an upward spiral in oil prices.
Today, the oil and gas industry comprises a wide variety of companies of different size and status. International oil companies, or majorsWord sometimes used to describe the leading international oil companies. , exist side-by-side with large national oil companies and emerging-market companies that are playing an increasingly important role on the world stage. (See the figures: "The Major Oil Companies")
International Oil Companies
International oil companies (IOCs) are vertically integrated companies with global operations spanning the entire oil and gas value chain. They rank among the world’s largest corporations in terms of revenue.
The big five oil companies are:
- Royal Dutch/Shell, an Anglo-Dutch company created by the merger of Shell and Royal Dutch.
- Exxon Mobil, an American company formed by the merger of Exxon and Mobil.
- BP, a British company formed by the merger of British Petroleum and Amoco.
- Chevron, an American company created by the merger of Chevron (formerly SoCal) and Texaco.
- Total, a French company formed by the mergers of Total, Fina and Elf.
Regardless of the metric used, they rank among the world’s top 12 corporations, and all of them have long histories (See Close-Up: "Oil Companies and Producing Countries Through the Years").
Over the years, these companies have diversified outside oil and gas, particularly into renewable energies. Shell, for example, has been developing biomassIn the energy sector, biomass is defined as all organic matter of plant or animal origin... , solar and wind operations. And Total took its involvement in photovoltaic solar powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... to the next level when it acquired SunPower.
Other well-established multinational energy companies in Europe include GDF Suez (excluding oil) in France, ENI in Italy and Statoil in Norway.
National Oil Companies
Most of the leading producing countries have a national oil and gas company, majority-owned by the government, that is responsible for managing production and defending their national interests in the oil and gas sector. In the OPECCreated in 1960, OPEC currently has 12 members: Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia... countries and in some non-OPEC countries, national oil companies have exclusive or near exclusive control of oil production.
This is the case with Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia; national companies in the Gulf States (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Kuwait and Qatar); Sonatrach in Algeria; and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Nigeria. The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) has continued to expand its gas operations in spite of the difficult geopolitical context. War and conflict have considerably disrupted the operations of the Iraqi and Libyan national oil companies. Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) in Mexico and Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) in Venezuela are also strong national oil companies.
Several companies in emerging economies or former Communist countries are becoming increasingly important players in the global oil patch and are looking to compete with international oil companies by extending their operations beyond their domestic markets. Privatization in Russia has led to the creation of powerful oil and gas companies like Lukoil, Gazprom and Rosneft. PetroChina and Sinopec, the listed arms of state-owned Chinese companies, are among the world’s top three oil companies based on revenue. In 2010, Brazil’s Petrobras conducted the world’s largest rights issue in order to develop its massive offshoreRefers to sea-based oil exploration and production operations, as in "offshore license" or "offshore drilling". deposits.
Many Other Companies
Apart from the international oil companies, the national oil companies and the large emerging-market companies, the oil and gas sector is also made up of:
- Medium-size independent companies that operate in a specific region or country, or even internationally, as is the case with many American companies such as Anadarko or French Maurel & Prom.
- Oil service companies, such as Schlumberger, Halliburton, CGG, that provide products, services and technology to the Oil & Gas industry. They deliver specific technical expertise, such as geophysical surveys and drillingThe process of boring a hole into the ground using special equipment... . There are also some engineering companies like Technip which have expertise in project management, engineering and construction for the energy industry.
- Lastly, engineering consulting firms and independent consultants that perform studies and technical audits for oil companies. Some organizations, such as the French Petroleum and Renewable Energies Institute IFP-EN, which is a public-sector research, innovation and training center active in the fields of energy, transport and the environment, provide training while conducting innovative R&D.