Royal Dutch Shell was formed from Royal Dutch, a company in the Netherlands which was engaged in oil exploration, drilling, and refining in Dutch colonies in Asia, and Shell Transport and Trading Company, which was engaged in the transport, distribution and marketing of petroleum products. Royal Dutch Shell is currently the second largest oil company with operations in more than 145 countries.
BP resulted from the merger of British Petroleum, formerly Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, Standard Oil of Ohio, BritOil, and Amoco, formerly Standard Oil of Indiana. Its distribution and marketing activities are under BP Trade Limited. BP owns 50 percent of TNK, a Russian Oil Company formed in 2003 which combined the petroleum assets of BP, Tyumen Oil Company, and Sidanko in Russia. It also holds 25 percent ownership of Russian oil company Slavneft. BP, which operates in 100 countries, now claims that it has dislodged Royal Dutch Shell as the second biggest oil company.
These are the three major oil companies control every aspect of the oil business. After a series of mergers, they replaced the seven sisters – Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, Texaco, Gulf, British Petroleum, and Royal Dutch/Shell – which dominated the industry up to the 80s, as the major players. These three oil companies also cooperate with minor oil companies, which operate like the major players, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. The biggest minor players are TotalFinaElf, the fourth biggest oil company, Chevron Texaco, the fifth, ConocoPhilips, the sixth largest and ENI, the seventh.
TotalFinaElf is a merger of Compagnie Francaise des Petroles (CFP), which developed the first oil field in Iraq in 1927, CFP’s marketing subsidiary Total, the Belgian company PetroFina, and another French oil company Elf Aquitaine S.A. It operates in more than 130 countries.
Chevron Texaco is conglomeration of Chevron, Texaco, and Caltex. Chevron was formerly the Standard Oil of California. Texaco, formerly the Texas Fuel Company, formed service stations throughout the U.S..Caltex resulted from the joint operations of the Standard Oil of California and Texaco to exploit the markets in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Chevron and Texaco merged and decided to dissolve Caltex. It operates in 180 countries.
ConocoPhillips resulted form the merger of Conoco, formerly Continental Oil, a refining and petroleum retail company, and Phillips Petroleum Company which engaged in the production of oil and natural gas. ConocoPhillips operates in over 40 countries.
ENI or the Ente Nazionale Idrocaburi of Italy included the Azinenda Generale Italiana Petroli (AGIP) as well as refining companies and a natural gas company. ENI is engaged in the production, trading, and marketing of oil and natural gas and operates in over 60 countries.
These big oil companies also control the exploration, production, distribution, and marketing of oil from oil producing countries, except those which eventually nationalized their oil industry such as Mexico and Venezuela.