Supermajors - Largest Oil Companies

Supermajor is a term applied to the six largest Oil companies in the world - all non-state owned companies. They are also known as International Oil Company or IOC, as people often see them in financial news media across the world.

The six largest oil companies trade all over the world under various names, and these Supermajors are:

  • ExxonMobil (USA)
  • Royal Dutch Shell (UK/Netherlands)
  • BP (BP plc - UK)
  • Chevron Corp. (USA)
  • ConocoPhillips (USA)
  • Total S.A (France)
These Supermajors appeared in the last years of the 1990s, responding to severe crash and deflation in the price of oil. Many of the large oil companies merged to improve economies and scale of production, as a hedge against the volatile crude oil prices, and to reduce the overly large reserves of cash by reinvesting. Amoco and BP merged in 1998, Mobil and Exxon in 1999, Petrofina and Total in 1999, and then with ElfAquitaine in 2000. Texaco and Chevron merged in 2001, Phillips Petroleum and Conoco merged in 2002. These mergers created some of the worlds largest oil companies according to the Forbes Global Ranking for 2000, and are still in the top 25.

If considered as a group, the Supermajors have control over almost 5% of the world's oil and natural gas reserves. The other 95% of the world s oil and gas reserves are under the control of state-owned national oil companies, most of which are in the Middle East. These Oil Supermajors are also known as Big Oil, collectively as a group. This is also used to describe the economic power, individually and collectively, of the worlds largest oil companies, and their influence on the politics of a country, including the US. The Big Oil majors are often associated and linked to the Energy Lobby.

Although the phrase, "Big Oil" is sometimes used in a derogatory manner, it encompasses the huge impact that crude oil and its price, production, and supply has on the industrialized society in the West. "Big Oil" is also used in discussions among people about consumer relationships with the production of oil and its usage. Most consumers in the US and Europe respond to high petrol prices by opting to purchase cars and vehicles, which have a higher fuel efficiency, especially during spikes in petrol prices. But this trend declines and discussions wane when oil and petrol are cheaper.

An issue is whether the Crude Oil, Natural Gas, and petroleum industry is engaging in profiteering during times of catastrophic weather and political unrest. The crude oil industry mostly responds by saying that the petroleum price increase is entirely due to the increasing cost of crude oil, which the Supermajors as a group have limited control due to their small share in the oil market, compared to the larger government and state owned oil majors. The Supermajors are quick to pint out that their margin of profit as a percentage of revenue is lower than other industries. To justify this, they outline extensive costs and the uncertainties of the market, demand and supply, and how the commodity futures have an affect on the pricing.